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Over the past century we have tested the limits of many of the natural resources that sustain us. Our current patterns of water use have developed in a context where the full costs of exploiting this vital natural resource were not borne by the users. The result is that our societies have become accustomed to – and our economies grown dependent on – practices which do not make efficient use of the resource. Water efficiency is a complex field with many such challenges, which in many cases are also opportunities for improvement. In a European context, it is receiving a great deal of attention as part of an overall strategy for resource-efficient growth.
This paper sets out the European policy context for water efficiency before going on to explore a number of areas where the key challenges and opportunities lie, asking whether resource efficiency is the right paradigm for delivering sustainable water use.
This is the third in a series of Environment Nexus policy briefs by leading experts in the fields of agriculture, energy, climate change and water.