Water usage in agriculture currently under EU audit

Concerns over the usage of water in agriculture across the EU have sparked an audit into the matter.

The European Court of Auditors is currently assessing the impact of the EU’s agricultural policy on sustainable water usage.

The assessment will be “useful as the EU moves forward with its reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)”.

Pressure of economic activity and climate change

The audit, which has just begun, is looking at how the pressures of economic activity and climate change are making water increasingly scarce throughout Europe.

In the summary report, it is outlined that one-quarter of all freshwater abstracted in the EU is used on farmland.

“Agricultural activity not only affects the quantity and availability of freshwater resources, but it also affects water quality, for instance, through fertiliser and pesticide pollution,” said Joëlle Elvinger, member of the European Court of Auditors.

Farmers are major users of freshwater; they are also amongst the first to be impacted by water scarcity.

“Our audit seeks to determine whether the action of the EU and its member states in agriculture is suitable and effective in applying and enforcing the principles of sustainable management of this vital resource.”

The current approach by the EU in managing water goes back to the Water Framework Directive, established in 2000, which introduced principles of sustainable water use.

The European Court of Auditors also said that CAP plays an important role in water sustainability, by not only “offering tools that can help reduce the pressures on water resources, but, it may also finance irrigation infrastructure”.

Three weeks ago, the European Commission decided not to revise the Water Framework Directive, which requires member states to ensure that all water bodies are in “good status” by 2027.

The audit is expected to be concluded in the second half of 2021.