28 November 2019

Nature-based solutions are key to European water security

A new report published by ICLEI, The Nature Conservancy, and EcoLogic Institute demonstrates how and why investing in nature-based solutions (NBS) is central to ensuring water security in Europe.

Despite research, advocacy and policy initiatives, the quality of freshwater in Europe has not significantly improved since the EU’s Water Framework Directive was adopted in 2000. Europe still struggles with persistent water quality issues from contamination, nutrient run-off, and pollutants. The risks and intensity of floods are also increasing, due, for example, to surface sealing, increased population density, and the ways water bodies’ natural courses have been altered for economic reasons like hydropower and irrigation. Finally, water scarcity challenges are becoming more pervasive in many areas of Europe due to economic and population pressures, as well as the effects of climate change.

Nature-based solutions can be used to combat these water security challenges, protect freshwater resources, and mitigate flood risk.

The new “Investing in Nature” report draws on extensive consultation, existing experiences, and case study research to provide a strategic vision for scaling-up NBS for water security in Europe, including overviewing the role of NBS and examining investments in these solutions.

The report not only identifies the critical role of NBS, but also outlines a vision to mobilise greater investments in NBS to address outstanding water security challenges.

NBS for water security is largely publicly funded – between 2014-2020, an average of 5.5 billion euros were invested per year into watershed restoration and conservation, 99 percent of which was from public sources. The report examines key barriers and enabling factors to accelerate investments in NBS for water security.

To delve more deeply into financing of NBS for water security, it also examines 19 unique case studies where pioneering actors have invested in NBS for water security, with support of public funders and regulatory agencies. In these cases, actors engaged with upstream water users and stakeholders to protect water sources.

The report concludes with five key recommendations to accelerate investment in NBS for water security in Europe. To scale-up NBS for water security, we must: value natural capital; work together and harness the power of collective action; mobilise investments in NBS; prioritise the solutions that can achieve the greatest results; and know the role each and every actor can play to accelerate the uptake of NBS for water security in Europe.

For more information, click here. Read the full report here.