26 - 27 January 2012, Berlin, Germany


Introduction & background

Water is a fundamental resource which sustains the life of all human beings. However, there is a growing concern about water quality and availability in some parts of Europe. While the demand for water is increasing constantly, the supply of water in the required quality and quantity is stressed by the accumulation and intensification of diverse factors such as unsustainable agricultural practices and urban activities, inefficient allocations and un-adapted governing institutions. In addition to the already uneven distribution of water resources in Europe, climate change, by inducing alteration of rainfall patterns, will further aggravate reliable water availability in currently water poor regions. The European Union is jointly addressing these challenges, e.g. with the Water Framework Directive (WFD), which was adopted in 2000 and aims at achieving a good ecological status of water bodies by 2015. Further, “The Blueprint to Safeguard Europe’s Water” which will be published by the end of 2012, will assess the implementation and achievements of the current water policies in Europe and will set the basis for future water policy in Europe.  

Economic Policy Instruments (EPIs) have received widespread attention over the last three decades, and have increasingly been implemented to achieve environmental policy objectives. However, whereas EPIs have been successfully applied in some policy domains (such as climate, energy and air quality), their application to tackle environmental issues such as droughts/water scarcity, floods and water quality control) are beset by many practical difficulties. EPI-Water sets to assess the effectiveness and the efficiency of EPIs in achieving water policy goals, and to identify the preconditions under which they complement or perform better than alternative (e.g. regulatory or voluntary) policy instruments.

Conference approach

As part of the EPI Water project, funded by DG Research of the European Commission, the conference will enable us to present and discuss the recently concluded global case studies regarding the application of EPIs in water management. These case studies include an ex-post assessment of economic instruments in Europe and elsewhere. Based on a common multi-dimensional assessment framework, their aim is to identify the relevant hydrological, socio-economic, cultural and institutional conditions under which EPI can i) operate in practice, ii) be effective/efficient as well as conditions which iii) limits the risk of implementation failure. The three main topic areas to be covered at the conference will include:

  • Addressing water quantity issues
  • Tackling water quality concerns
  • Sustainable development of hydropower and protecting aquatic systems
  • Innovative water policy instruments applicable in Europe.

Multi- and inter-disciplinary participants

The conference will bring together European and international experts and researchers from academia, governments and research institutions.
Members of the EPI-water consortium, along with experts of the Inspiration Beyond the EU (IBE) group and the policy advisors of the project will discuss the case study findings in order to increase the applicability of results for policy, to evaluate the use of economic instruments in water management and to discuss best practices on the choice and evaluation of water policy instruments. The results of this conference will pave the way for further work in the project.

The European based consortium of 11 partners brings a multi- and inter-disciplinarity of skills and includes participants from the Foundation Eni Enrico Mattei, the Foundation Imdea Agua, the Flood Hazard Research Center of Middlesex University, the National Envirommental Research Institute of Aarhus University, the Budapest based Corvinus Egyetem Regional Center for Energy Policy Research, the University of Bologna, Wageningen University, The National Technical University of Athens, Valencia University, the Ecologic Institute and ACTeon.

The role of the Inspiration from Beyond the EU (IBE) group is to provide experiences and insights from outside of Europe on EPIs experiences. The group includes participants from Resources for the Future (RFF), the Australian University of Sydney, the Australian University of Adelaide, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the University of California, the University of Colorado, Kieser & Associates, the University of Richmond, Pontifical Catholic University of Chile and Peking University.

The policy advisors of the project (Policy Think Tank, PTT) comprise of high level policy makers from diverse governmental organizations and non-governmental organizations from across Europe. The role of the PTT group is to provide guidance and advices in research activities and on the overall project. They include participants from AgroParis Tech (CNRS), the Organization for Economic and Co-operation Development (OECD), the Seine Normandie Water Agency, the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management, the Spanish Ministry of Environment, the UK Department for Food and Rural Affairs, World Wide Fund (WWF), the Committee of Professional Agricultural Organisations and General Committee for Agricultural Cooperation in the European Union (COPA-COGECA), the Romanian Waters National Administration, the Directorate-General for the Environment (DG Environment), and the European Environmental Agency.

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