Water is a fundamental precondition for human, animal and plant life. There is no substitute to water as a resource for the economy and waterborne transport is an important part of a national transport system in many countries. In addition, water has a key role in the climate regulation cycle and carbon management enabling carbon sequestration via nature-based solutions.
A growing lack of water (water stress) and its pollution originate from resource extraction and processing of materials, fuels and food. A sustainable ‘blue economy’ will play a central role in alleviating the multiple demands on the EU’s land resources and tackling climate change.
The European Green Deal includes a plan to improve the quality and availability of water resources and preservation of water-dependent ecosystems in response to these challenges as part of the objective “Towards a zero-pollution ambition for a toxic free environment“.
To protect its citizens and ecosystems, the EU will target ensuring a toxic-free environment in which water protection features as one of the priorities. This is in particular important for cities where industrial and economic processes place greatest pressure on water. The focus will be particularly on a better monitoring, reporting, preventing and remedying pollution from air, water, soil, and consumer products via a zero pollution action plan for air, water and soil which is to be issued in 2021. In addition, these activities will entail a more systemic review of all policies and regulations at national level which will subsequently have a considerable impact on cities, too.
Natural functions of ground and surface water are planned to be restored. This is essential to preserve and restore biodiversity in lakes, rivers, wetlands and estuaries, and to prevent and limit damage from floods. In addition, the Commission will propose measures to address pollution from urban runoff and from new or particularly harmful sources of pollution such as microplastics and chemicals, including pharmaceuticals. Implementing the ‘Farm to Fork’ strategy will reduce pollution from excess nutrients. In addition, the combined effects of different pollutants and potential prevention of industrial accidents will be addressed.
The key EU actions under the European Green Deal objective “Towards a zero-pollution ambition for a toxic free environment“ are as follows:
- Chemicals strategy for sustainability (adopted on 14.10.2020, see Documents section)
- Zero pollution action plan for water, air and soil (planned to be adopted in Q2 2021)
Revision of measures to address pollution from large industrial installations (planned to be adopted in 2021)
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