U.S. Water News Online
MEXICO CITY -- About 41 million people in Europe lack
sufficient access to drinking water, and 85 million lack basic
drainage, sewage or sanitation services, officials said in a report
presented at the 4th World Water Forum in Mexico.
While Europeans are a small portion of the 1.1 billion worldwide
without enough drinking water, or the 2.6 billion worldwide without
sanitation, the report showed that water issues can afflict even
people in some of the most developed countries, and on a continent
that often seeks to export its water expertise.
Southern European countries are susceptible to droughts, for
example, while northern nations are at risk of floods and the entire
continent must help eastern countries and repair centuries-old
waterworks, officials said.
"The aging infrastructure in many European cities needs immediate
action," said Jeoren Van der Sommen, of the Netherlands Water
Officials estimated that about half of Europe's waste water is
discharged untreated, and said climate changes threatened to wreak
havoc by making weather more unpredictable.
"Natural disasters are understood (in Europe) as temporary events,
but there are some catastrophes that are becoming structural,
permanent," said Cristina Gutierrez, an EU Parliament member from
Officials called for east-west cooperation to improve eastern
European nations' water and sewer systems. Andre Santini, of France's
Seine-Normandy water authority, proposed taxing consumers euro.01
($0.01) per cubic meter yard of water to fund such projects.
Another point of contention is between France and Spain, which
suffers water shortages and aquifer depletion and would like its
northern neighbor to share water from border rivers. But the French
appear loath to do so.
"Yes, France has a bit more water than Spain," said former French
Prime Minister Michel Rocard. "But until we have reached that level
where there is no other possibility except water sharing, before we
get to that stage ... we must see better local management of water
resources, better irrigation."
Gutierrez dismissed the French position as water politics.
"At this point, water has become an element of political identity,
and that translates into a situation in which nobody wants to share
water. In Spain, we are convinced of the need for water sharing," she
Netherlands Crown Prince Willem-Alexander urged Europe to form a
regional partnership to solve its problems, saying that the continent
frequently lectures other countries.
"We always have our finger up to tell the rest of the world what
to do," he said.
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