On 23 October 2000, the "Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a framework for the Community action in the field of water policy" or, in short, the EU Water Framework Directive (or even shorter the WFD) was finally adopted - a Directive that set out the basic aims of water conservation and best use thereof.
True to form, the EU does not rest for long without further strengthening its powers over member states where environmental matters are concerned - allowed in Article 4.2(e) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) - and as reported in EUActiv there are plans for measures to rein (or should that be 'rain'?) in water use, with a particular focus on savings in agriculture, buildings and industrial processes.
"Ideas put forward included improving land-use planning to take account of water issues, introducing more widespread use of pricing and metering technologies – in households and agriculture – as well as promoting water efficient devices. Education and communication campaigns are also in the works to help raise citizens' awareness about water..........The policy paper will focus on increasing water savings in all areas, with a particular emphasis on agriculture and improving water retention by making changes to land use and management. Other areas where efficiency gains are expected include water supply infrastructures and buildings. This will be done by ensuring "demand management" of water – including pricing policies – in a bid to secure enough water for all essential uses."
One further extract from the EUActiv report is worth repeating:
"A Commission communication on water scarcity, published in 2007, laid down a hierarchy under which "water demand management should come first, and alternative supply options should be considered only once the potential for water savings and efficiency has been exhausted."
It is worth noting some important phrases in the foregoing quotes:
"..introducing more widespread use of pricing and metering technologies.....making changes to land use and management........ensuring "demand management" of water.........water demand management should come first.." As with Smart Meters for electricity, which have the capability to be controlled by the supplier thus 'regulating' when electricity is available - so, no doubt, technology will be able to 'regulate' when water is made available.
Reverting to the shenanigans over the EU Budget, readers will recall, as part of the trade-off to keep the budget increase to 2.91%, it was decided that an 'own resources' tax would be levied. This may take the form on a tax on financial deals, an 'energy' tax, or possibly an increase in VAT rates. What price a water tax in the years to come, once this 'water regulation use' directive is finalised? Needless to say, as can be seen from the EUActiv article, all those involved in water provision etc, are all enthusiastically 'on-board' - so no surprises there then.
For those readers what got taught geography as it was - and should still be - you will recall that islands get more rainfall than do continents. This is borne out by the stats table here - from which will be seen the average rainfall for the following countries: Average annual precipitation in mm: Netherlands 778.3 England 1219.8 Germany 699.9 Belgium 847.4 France 866.7 - which, in 'our language', equates to 30.64"; 48.02"; 27.56"; 33.36" and 34.12". The figure for the UK must be higher on the basis that presumably Scotland and Wales get more rainfall then England (it is always raining when I am in Wales!). It is not known yet, obviously, how this tax (assuming it is brought in) may be computed, but if on rainfall and the infrastructure required to cope with that - then the UK, as with budget contributions, could well end up 'subsidising' the continent.
Lends a whole new meaning to the old adage (in its most polite form) of "extracting the water"!