Water Conference: Speeding up to a water resilient Europe. Towards an EU water resilience agenda

Date 12.03.2024
Location Leuven, Belgium

On March 12, the European Water Conference took place in Leuven, under the title "Speeding up to a water resilient Europe". This conference was organized by the Flemish Environment Agency (VMM) as part of the Belgian EU Presidency. The conference offered valuable perspectives and insights on water resilience in Europe.

On the day of the event, over 200 participants, policy makers and experts from the water sector in Europe converged to Leuven to exchange on the current statute of water in Europe and what is needed to improve it.

The Water Conference features presentations and in-depth panel discussions covering:

  • Changing risks of hydrological extremes
  • Outlining the future towards a water resilient Europe
  • Implementing evidence-based pathways to a water resilient Europe: actionable knowledge for decision makers
  • Advancing towards a water smart society
  • Fostering water resilience in a transboundary context

Among the speakers, we could note the participation of Dr. Florika Fink-Hooijer of the European Commission. She reaffirmed the importance of water resilience and the challenges ahead. She highlighted the link between climate risks, biodiversity loss and pollution, and the need for more ambitious policies to promote water resilience. She stressed that therefore an integrated approach is essential for achieving these goals and pointed out the significant investment gap in water management. She also gave a strong call to participate at the EU Green Week on Water resilience.

Mr. Pietro Francesco De Lotto shared the European Economic and Social Committee call for an EU Blue Deal. This was a strong message underlining the need for a more comprehensive and strategic approach to water in the EU and a strong call for a joint effort. This call for a joint effort already got a positive answer from the European Committee of the Regions, with their EU Blue Deal from an agricultural and rural development perspective across the EU Regions. This provides the use of nature-based solutions to restore the sponge function and a call for a shift in water use towards a reuse in all economic sectors: not only agriculture, but also industry, leisure and tourism and consumers water-use.

 Mrs. Wendy Francken, EWA President and Managing Director at VLARIO, took part on the Panel discussion: “Towards a water smart society: a discussion amongst Europe´s most prominent water stakeholders”. She presented the EWA keys points toward a Sustainable Water Management. EWA believes in a fair access to water for all that should allow every citizen a right to water. A secure financing for water sector is also needed to provide a clear view of available maintenance and investment opportunities. A clear financial scheme will have a positive impact on water infrastructure and will support a more global EU Strategic autonomy and competitiveness where the strategic value of water would be recognised. Moreover, a potential systemic water crisis will not only affect the water sector but would have an impact on the Food-Energy-Water nexus. She highlighted the importance of making the water services more visible and rethink urban planning to allow more place for water in our cities via nature-based solutions when doable. Mrs Francken concluded her intervention by sharing the “Urgent call to deliver the Water Resilience Initiative” letter co-signed by a coalition of Europeans organisations (among others the EWA) and shared that day. The partners signing this letter called upon the European Commission to uphold its commitment and deliver the Water Resilience Initiative, making water a top priority for the next mandate of the European Commission.

The conclusion of the event was provided by Mr Bernard De Potter, administrator general of the VMM. He stressed the importance of immediate actions and call to scale-up the Flemish Blue Deal to the European level. He recognized the fundamental value of water and the need for innovative solutions for water resilience. He also emphasized the need for a systemic approach, the importance of learning through experience and working with diverse stakeholders.

This event was a joint organization by watercircle.be, Vlakwa, European Water Association (EWA) Minaraad and Vleva.

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