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The future of Europe’s freshwaters – perspective up to 2030

Congress: 2008
Author(s): Ilona Bärlund, Martina Flörke, Joseph Alcamo, Christof Schneider, Kasper Kok, Juha Kämäri
Ilona Bärlund1, Martina Flörke1, Joseph Alcamo1, Christof Schneider1, Kasper Kok2 and Juha Kämäri3 1 Center for Environmental Systems Research (CESR), University of Kassel, Kurt-Wolters-Strasse 3, D-34125 Kassel, Germany, tel. +495618043903, fax. +495618043176, 2 Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands 3 Finnish Environment Institute, Helsinki, Finland

Keyword(s): scenarios, water availability, water use, Europe
AbstractFirst results are now available from a new pan-European (23 research institutes) study of the future of water resources in Europe. SCENES is a 4 -year EU project (2006-2010) developing and analysing a set of comprehensive scenarios of Europe’s freshwater futures, covering "pan-Europe" including the Caucasus region, North African countries, and parts of the Middle East. The first phase of the project is a "fast track" scenario exercise based mostly on information from existing scenarios. Specifically, SCENES is using the scenarios developed under UNEP's Fourth Global Environment Outlook (GEO-4). The objective of this phase is to provide numerical estimates of the response of Europe's waters to the driving forces specified in the storylines of the GEO-4 scenarios. In particular, researchers are identifying the regions in Europe with rapidly changing water withdrawals and possible water shortages under the various scenarios. The GEO-4 scenarios were selected because they are region-specific and current (released in October 2007). The numerical estimates of the GEO-4 scenarios are produced by the WaterGAP model (Water – Global Assessment and Prognosis). Most calculations are performed on a 0.5°x0.5° grid and then aggregated to the river basin scale. The overall approach of the scenario analysis in SCENES is based on the Story-and-Simulation Approach (SAS). This method involves the development of narrative storylines during a series of stakeholder workshops in which the WaterGAP results will be used as one source of information to describe the present state and possible future development of water resources in Europe. Preliminary results are available from the fast track scenarios up to 2030. Under the climate change assumptions of the GEO-4 scenarios, only a small change is computed in water availability in Central Europe up to 2030. However, this result masks significant seasonal changes: a 5 to 25% increase (depending on location) is computed for the winter season and 5 to 25% decrease for the summer season. These are results for the Security First scenario, but other scenarios show similar results because of their comparable estimates of climate change up to 2030. Although they show a similar impact of climate change, the scenarios differ greatly in their estimates of future water withdrawals in Europe. According to a scenario assuming a strengthening of water-saving actions (Sustainability First), water withdrawals may decline by more than 50% in Central and Northern Europe. Even under a scenario (Security First) without major water-saving actions, water withdrawals decrease by 25 to 50% in Western Europe, parts of the Baltic countries and Scandinavia because of the saturation of water demand in the household sector, and because of expected improvements in the efficiency of water use in all economic sectors. Preliminary results already show that annual average indicators are inadequate in describing the future of water resources in Europe. The focus of scenario studies should be on changes expected in seasonal indicators, for example, on the availability of water during the summer season versus winter season. These and other challenges remain to be met in the comprehensive scenario exercise of the SCENES Project.
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