Water economyThe impact of hydrological extremes, especially droughts, will affect economic activities and ecological systems that depend on the availability of water.

Europe currently meets some of its water needs by importing ‘virtual’ water in the form of goods and services from other countries and regions. This external component accounts for approximately 40% of Europe’s water footprint.

However, availability of these imports relying on water can be at risk considering that production of many commodities are potentially sensitive to climate change on global scale.

For example, IPCC suggests that the Mediterranean basin, southern Africa, western United States and southern and western Australia will suffer a decrease in water resources with a consequential reduction in production as a result of increase in droughts.

This forecast may suggest that the structure of production within Europe and imports may need to be adjusted to respond to climate change/availability of water resources around the world. Changes in the locality of production may have a number of subsequent environmental and social effects both in Europe and around the world.

In this sectoral survey, we assessed the vulnerability of the European economy on global supply and production of goods under hydrological extremes and climate change.

 Partners: WFN, PIK


Impacts of future European floods

Dependence of European economy on water issues elsewhere The European economy is dependent on water resources elsewhere in the world. Many of the goods consumed in the European Union (EU28) are not produced domestically, but abroad. Some goods, in particular agriculture-based products, require a lot of water during production. These water-intensive production processes are dependent upon the availability of water at the various locations where the production processes take place. Their production may be vulnerable to different factors ranging from:

  • reduced river flows,
  • lowered lake levels and
  • declined ground water tables to
  • increased salt intrusion in coastal areas,
  • pollution of freshwater bodies,
  • droughts and
  • a changing climate.

This report maps the current vulnerabilities of the European economy related to water scarcity and drought occurrence in the countries of origin of imported products.

Read the full report on the dependence of the European economy on water issues elsewhere.