Living within our Means: Water and Resource Efficiency in the EU

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.

Living within our Means: Water and Resource Efficiency in the EU

by Ryan Meade

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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.