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Blue Gold Task Force

Water contributes to sustaining human development and prosperity across the globe. It is ‘Blue Gold’, although policies, markets and human practices often underestimate its value.

Existing water supplies are increasingly under stress due to unsustainable land use, economic activities such as energy production, industry, agriculture and tourism, urban development and demographic change. Demand for water has increased due to population growth and urbanisation, and contamination and geographically uneven distribution of freshwater sources have become serious challenges. In addition, it is expected that climate change will lead to an increase in floods and droughts, and have a further negative impact on supply of water. These are both global and European challenges.

This growing stress on existing water supplies calls for action at both the EU and global levels. This requires protective measures against unsustainable practices, greater efficiency and smarter use of water, developing and deploying innovative new solutions, and managing and preparing for extreme events that can have serious implications for supply of water.

At the same time, the benefits of meeting the water challenge are enormous, ranging from societal and environmental advantages to economic gains including new business opportunities. Thanks to its wide-ranging policy toolbox, the European Union has the potential to become a leader in promoting a concerted and holistic response to the manifold dimensions of this challenge and to enable Europe, its public and private sectors as well as its citizens to enjoy these benefits.

However, the EU’s efforts to tackle the challenge and enjoy the benefits have been limited both within the EU as well as globally. Thus, the EPC launched a project on ‘Blue Gold’, which considered actions needed to ensure that both the EU’s internal as well as external policies help to meet the water challenge and to develop smart and sustainable water practices. The water challenge cuts across many different policy fields and it thus requires both an interdisciplinary approach and creative institutional and policy solutions.

The work of the Task Force

The Task Force explored the water challenge in and outside the EU, the ongoing efforts to tackle the challenge, as well as the related benefits. It considered the role of internal and external EU policy instruments in the process as well as the challenges and benefits of developing a common EU water policy.

The key questions answered during the project included:

1) What measures are needed at EU level to meet the water challenge within the EU?

2) Could the EU do more to mitigate the global water challenge, and its implications for Europe? What can the EU do to tackle the security challenges relating to water and promote international governance of water?

3) What are the benefits of acting now?

4) Does the EU need a common water policy and what would the benefits be?

The project was launched in September 2013 and the EPC organised five workshops in the following 12 months. The Task Force started by reflecting on the water challenge and the EU’s tools for action within and outside Europe. It then explored water as an economic, social and development issue and then studied water as a political and security issue. The challenges and possibilities were explained with the help of case studies.

Furthermore, the Task Force sought for innovative solutions to demonstrate the benefits of improved water management for economy and society, and explored the needed measures for their development and deployment. The findings of the project and policy recommendations for further action has been published at the end of the project.


Senior Associate Fellow

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