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Urban Water Agenda 2030

Brussels 28 June 2017

Today I was in a meeting on the Urban Water Agenda 2030, organised by EUROCITIES and ICLEI.

I am very happy they took over this initiative on the UWA2030: it is a fresh start and the work they have been doing so far is truely remarkable! 

You can find the draft strategy at this link  and the public consultation (deadline 5 July) on the strategy here: 

From the European Commission Ms Karen DALGAARD SANNING (DG ENV. Unit C1) presented the initiative: started in 2016 in Leewarden, the European Commission put a renewed focus on it at the end of last year.  

DG ENV is looking at the River Basin Management Plans across all countries to assess the implementation of the WFD. The outcome of this evaluation will be available by the end of this year. Although cities are not very involved in the implementation of the WFD at the moment, we know that this should change since 2/3 of Europeans will live in cities by 2030.

The UWA2030 is a strategy that will be up to the cities to own and promote. Cities will have to understand how they want to be involved and how the Commission can support them.

Claire Baffert from EUROCITIES presented the Strategy: EUROCITES and ICLEI aim at creating a platform where cities can share knowledge and exchange practices. They departed from the consideration that the poor status of water bodies in Europe is a concern, that there is gap of implementation of the WFD and that measures for climate change adaptation are needed. Water scarcity but also floods are more and more a reality and cities face both technical and legal challenges.

The overarching objective of the UWA2030 is a better implementation of the water policy, achieving the objectives of the WFD.

Different levels of action and involvement are envisaged, depending on how far a city wishes to be included in the UWA2030:

-          Empowering cities

-          becoming aware

-          keeping up to speed with legislative developments

-          accelerating uptake of innovation: share practices and learn

-          Taking advantage of privileged financing opportunities

-          Become a role model in water management 

In March EUROCITIES published a call for interest and a core group 25 cities from 18 EU was established.

The draft strategy is a first outcome of their first meetings, proving entry points for cities: five strategy directions were identified and every strategy direction corresponds to one commitment that cities can undertake when joining the UWA2030 process.

1.       Action at local level: develop an action plan for integrated urban water management. Develop a methodology for action planning.

2.       Action between cities: participate to peer to peer exchanges. Empower cities in providing information on funding.

3.       Action at River Basin level leading to engagement with other takeholders

4.       At EU level the aim is to contribute to EU water policy: the UWA will allow cities to dialogue with EU institutions.

5.       At global level: the focus is on the cooperation to implement the SDG6

Before opening the floor to discuss the strategy, cities representatives from Paris, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Leewarden, Oslo and Genk took the floor and presented their views on water management, their existing objectives, their challenges and ambitions. They also shared their views on the Strategy of the UWA2030.   

The discussion with stakeholders touched upon the need to consider existing initiatives (water atlas –KWR, Water Stewardship - EWP) and how water management can be integrated in urban planning (Aqua publica europea). 

When looking at the draft strategy, the SDGs are only mentioned in the Strategic direction ‘world level’, while it would be good to have in mind that the SDGs (including the SDG6) will have to be implemented by the EU and by the Member States as well: this is a feature that distinguish them from the MDGs.

When it comes to water management, technical solutions and innovation are available. What we expect from cities is political leadership and the prioritisation of water in their city planning priorities, in order to bring about change and to make the right decisions.  

For the UN the human right to water and sanitation is defined by the following dimensions: availability, accessibility, acceptability, affordability and safety. In order to realise the SDG6 in Europe cities could focus on three specific topics in the strategy since they are typical topics where decisions are taken at local level:

-          The need of investments in water infrastructure

-          The issue of affordability for households

-          The resilience of water infrastructure not only to climate change but to natural disasters and security threats.    

The Commission concluded that depending on support of cities, they could envisage developing links to policy areas and a short political declaration by cities could be endorsed in Porto.


Water matters. EU matters.   

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