Alcalá de Henares - Madrid (Spain) - February 6th - 7th, 2013 


Introduction & background

Water is a fundamental resource that sustains 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 constantly increasing, 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 and therefore on the table during the Conference, will assess the implementation and achievements of current water policies in Europe and will set the basis for future water policy in Europe. 

Economic policy instruments (EPI) have received widespread attention over the last three decades, and have increasingly been implemented to achieve environmental policy objectives. However, whereas EPI have been successfully applied in some policy domains (such as climate, energy and air quality), their application to tackle water management issues (drought/water scarcity, floods, water quality control) is beset by many practical difficulties. Using a common multi-dimensional assessment framework, EPI-Water compares the performance of single economic instruments with alternative policy instruments and baseline scenarios. It also identifies the preconditions for EPIs to be implementable effective and/or efficiently in given conditions, be it in isolation or in combination with command and control mechanisms.

Conference approach

As part of EPI-Water project, funded by DG Research of the European Commission, the conference will enable us to present and discuss progress since the First EPI-Water Conference held in Berlin in January 2012. The current activity of EPI-Water is focused on (ex-ante) assessing the performance of different and innovative economic instruments under different hydrological, socio-economic, cultural and institutional conditions and on analysing their ability and effectiveness to respond to water policy priorities.

The main topic areas to be covered at the conference will be linked to three critical water policy challenges and the development of water accounting systems based on the UN-developed methodology: SEEA-W.

  • Flood protection and management, based on a case study at the Tisza valley (Hungary), on floods and waterlogging in the Marosszog and Middle Tisza.
  • Water scarcity and drought management, based on a case study in the interconnected river basins of the Tagus and Segura (Spain).
  • Water ecosystem services, based on a case study at the Seine-Normandie river basin (France).
  • System of Environmental-Economic Accounting for Water (SEEA-W): water quality dimension (based on a case study at the Odense catchment, Denmark).
  • System of Environmental-Economic Accounting for Water (SEEA-W): water quantity dimension (based on a case study at the Pinios - Greece - and Segura - Spain - river basins).

Multi- and inter-disciplinary participants

The conference will bring together European and international experts and researchers from academia, governments, and research institutions.

The European-based consortium of 11 partners brings in multi- and inter-disciplinarity of skills and includes participants from the Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM), Italy; ACTeon (ACTeon), France; Ecologic Institute (ECOLOGIC), Germany; Università di Bologna (UNIBO), Italy; Wageningen University (WU), The Netherlands; National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), Greece; Instituto Madrileño de Estudios Avanzados – Agua (IMDEA Water), Spain; University of Valencia (UVEG), Spain; Middlesex University, Flood Hazard Research Centre (MU), United Kingdom; Aarhus Universitet – National Environmental Research Institute (AU-NERI), Denmark; Corvinus University of Budapest, and the Regional Centre for Energy Policy Research (BCE-REEK), Hungary.

The role of the Inspiration from Beyond the EU (IBE) group is to provide experiences and insights from outside 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) include 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 advice 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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