By politics.co.uk staff
The current levels of water being extracted and consumed across Europe are "unsustainable" and must be reversed, experts have warned.
A report from the European Environment Agency says widely-reported problems of drought in the south are being replicated in the north.
The after effects of climate change will worsen the severity and duration of droughts in years to come, the EEA says.
"We are living beyond our means when it comes to water," said the agency's executive director Professor Jacqueline McGlae.
"The short-term solution to water scarcity has been to extract ever greater amounts of water from our surface and groundwater assets. Overexploitation is not sustainable. It has a heavy impact on the quality and quantity of the remaining water as well as the ecosystems which depend on it.
"We have to cut demand, minimise the amount of water that we are extracting and increase the efficiency of its use."
The report's key findings recommend:
- Public water supply system leakages must be addressed
- Water should be priced according to volume used
- Drought management plans should be implemented more extensively
- Water-intensive bio-energy crops should be avoided where water is scarce
- Combination of crop selection and irrigation methods should be encouraged
- Surveillance, fines or penalties should be introduced to prevent illegal abstraction of water
According to the EEA, 285 cubic kilometres of freshwater are extracted in Europe annually, equal to two Olympic swimming polls per capita.