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11th Roundtable on Financing Water in Brussels: Focus on Eastern Partnership Countries

The 11th meeting of the Roundtable on Financing Water took place on 30-31 May and focused on the EU's Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Held in Brussels, Belgium, the event highlighted the needs and opportunities for accelerating investment in water-related sectors in line with the priorities of the EaP countries.

Key highlights:

The opening session provided an overview of the achievements and remaining financing challenges in the region, emphasising environmental and climate resilience and the promotion of fair and inclusive societies. The Eastern Partnership Economic and Investment Plan aims to mobilise €17 billion by 2027, and the EU's Global Gateway Initiative targets up to €300 billion to address global challenges, including water management.

Throughout the sessions, discussions focused on improving investment decisions for the implementation of EU water legislation, the enabling environment for water security investments and the use of economic instruments such as taxes and tariffs. Innovative approaches to mobilising finance for sustainable water management and addressing the challenges of river basin management planning were highlighted. The potential of nature-based solutions (NbS) as cost-effective alternatives to traditional infrastructure was also explored, underlining the importance of new knowledge and financing approaches.

The Roundtable underlined the importance of innovative solutions, sound policy frameworks and strategic investments to improve water management and security in the Eastern Partnership countries.

Season's Greetings from EU4Environment - Water and Data

Country: Regional
Component: Water resources, Environmental Data

As we bid farewell to 2023, a year of transformative progress, we express our heartfelt gratitude to our partners and stakeholders in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgian, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.

In our pursuit of sustainable water management and environmental data excellence, 2023 marked significant milestones. From initiating and further developing River Basin Management Plans (RBMP), to using satellite data for environmental monitoring in Eastern Partner countries to pioneering wastewater-based epidemiology - each step was a testament to our shared commitment.

In 2024 our journey towards a more resilient and vibrant European continent continues, underlining the importance of nature-inspired resource management.

We wish you a joyful holiday season and a prosperous New Year filled with sustainable solutions and harmonious coexistence with nature.

Training on Surface Water Data Analysis for Eastern Partnership Countries

Country: Regional
Component: Water resources, Environmental Data

The EU4Environment Water Resources and Environmental Data programme recently organized a comprehensive training on surface water data analysis, aligned with the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD). The training sessions, held in Vienna, Austria, were conducted by the Austrian Environment Agency on 21-22 May for Armenian and Georgian professionals and on 28-29 May 2024 for Moldovan and Ukrainian professionals 

The training aimed to equip participants with robust data analysis skills necessary for effective water resource management and compliance with the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD).  

Participants gained insights into the relevance of the EU directive for water quality and environmental monitoring. The training covered key parameters, methods, and sampling techniques used in water quality assessment within the WFD framework.  

Through interactive sessions and practical exercises, participants developed proficiency in various data analysis techniques, statistical tools, and software applications used for evaluating and interpreting water quality data.  

The training enhanced participants' skills in identifying trends, anomalies, and compliance with WFD standards through data analysis. Participants also improved their ability to communicate data analysis results effectively using data visualization techniques. 

How can Earth observation help monitor the shrinking of Lake Taraclia in Moldova or walnut production in Georgia?

Country: Armenia, Georgia, Republic of Moldova
Component: Environmental Data

These were some of the questions addressed during a series of hands-on training sessions on the use of satellite data from the Copernicus programme. The series of workshops was organised by the EU4Environment Water and Data programme for experts in Armenia, Georgia and Moldova in December 2023.

The aim of the workshop was to introduce experts from the Eastern Partnership countries to the main characteristics and types of satellite imagery and to provide an overview of the Copernicus programme, its data and services. Participants were introduced to the Copernicus Data Space Ecosystem (https://dataspace.copernicus.eu/), the newly launched portal for visualisation and download of Copernicus products.

Participants actively followed three case studies to understand and explore the potential of satellite data for land monitoring applications and to gain first-hand experience of processing satellite data in QGIS (an open-source geographic information system application that supports the viewing, editing and analysis of geospatial data).

Topics such as  inter-annual variability of vegetation productivity and its response to climatic conditions or forest change were explored. There were also some country specifics, such as a focus on agricultural productivity in Armenia, walnut production in Georgia and the shrinking of Lake Taraclia in Moldova.

The discussions helped to identify different applications that could benefit from the use of satellite data. Several thematic areas were identified, such as agriculture, water resources and climate.

A similar workshop will be held online for Ukraine in 2024.

Mapping land cover and land use is essential to determine what quantity of land is currently being used and for what purpose, and to identify changes in land use from year to year. This knowledge helps develop strategies to balance conflicting uses and nature protection. It helps to assess urban growth, model water quality issues, predict impacts from floods, and track wetland loss and the potential effects of rising sea levels, etc.

EU Support in Eastern Partnership Countries for Improved Sanitation and Wastewater Monitoring

Country: Regional
Component: Water resources

Worldwide, 3.5 billion people - or 40% of the population - live without safe toilets, shorthand for safely managed sanitation system. A safely managed sanitation system ensures human waste is properly contained, transported, and treated, safeguarding human health and the environment. 

The willingness of the Eastern Partnership countries to improve their environment and the well-being of their populations is reflected in their bilateral agreements with the European Union, in which they commit themselves, to varying degrees depending on the country, to align with EU water and wastewater legislation. They have also all signed the Protocol on Water and Health under the United Nations Water Convention, and three of them (Azerbaijan, Moldova, and Ukraine) have ratified it, becoming parties to it, which means that they are obliged to set targets for water supply and sanitation and to monitor progress. 

The EU supports the Eastern Partnership countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine)  in their efforts to reduce the pollution of their rivers, lakes and groundwater. 

Untreated wastewater is one of the biggest sources of water pollution in the Eastern Partner countries   

Inadequately collected and treated domestic wastewater discharged into rivers and lakes is a major source of surface water pollution and, in some cases, groundwater contamination. Agricultural runoff (e.g., pesticides, fertilizers) and industrial wastewater (e.g., mining, chemical, and processing industries) can also be important sources of pollution in certain regions.  

In addition to damaging the health of populations and aquatic ecosystems, this pollution results in economic damage, e.g. to fisheries, drinking water supplies, agriculture, or recreation and tourism.  

In the 8 river basins with existing EU-backed management plans, 72% of expenses are devoted to sanitation for human and ecosystem health. The amount of investment in sanitation in these river basin management plans represents an average of EUR 110 per inhabitant. This trend is expected to continue in the three basins where a plan is under development.  

Among the many measures to be implemented, improving sanitation is one of the most effective because its positive environmental and health effects are easier and quicker to measure. Typically, countries begin to invest significantly in water supply, but sanitation and pollution control remain critical issues. This is the case in most of the Eastern Partnership countries.

Developing wastewater monitoring to inform future public health measures 

Wastewater surveillance aided in detecting past pandemics like polio. During the COVID-19 pandemic, health agencies in the EU utilized this tool as an early and low-cost source of information to identify virus presence and gauge its intensity. To deal with future public health challenges, wastewater-based epidemiological monitoring will provide a valuable source of information for public health decision-makers to support health-related measures. 

The EU4Environment Water and Data programme promotes monitoring COVID-19 in wastewater in the EaP countries. In 2022, the SarsCov-2 virus was analysed for the first time ever in wastewater samples from Yerevan, Baku, Tbilisi and Chișinău with the help of the programme. Austrian experts also provided guidance on the elaboration of the procedures, evaluation and interpretation of data. Non-infective RNA (Ribonucleic acid, a molecule that is present in the majority of living organisms and viruses) fragments of SARS-CoV-2 are also present in the faeces of individuals infected with the virus regardless of their health status (symptomatic, asymptomatic, pre-symptomatic, convalescent). When combined with clinical testing, hospitalisation rates and epidemiological data, wastewater surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 can track and identify whether the virus is present at an early stage, and determine its geographic coverage and intensity.

More: 

UN-Water 2023 synthesis report on SDG 6 on water and sanitation;  www.unwater.org/publications/sdg-6-synthesis-report-2023 

Our articles on the same topic: 

https://www.eu4waterdata.eu/en/blog-news/54-eap-region/265-shared-knowledge-on-wastewater-based-epidemiology-high-level-workshop-on-3rd-july.html  

https://www.eu4waterdata.eu/en/blog-news/54-eap-region/152-covid-19-surveillance-in-eastern-partner-countries.html  

https://www.eu4waterdata.eu/en/blog-news/54-eap-region/132-world-health-day-eu-strengthens-covid-19-monitoring-in-eastern-partner-countries.html  

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The EU-funded “EU4Environment – Water Resources and Environmental Data” Programme, launched in 2021, aims at supporting a more sustainable use of water resources and improving the use of sound environmental data ... Read more

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