On 22 March, the globe celebrates World Water Day. Water is a crosscutting issue that features in numerous Sustainable Development Goals through its close links with food, health, climate, energy, biodiversity, poverty and gender equality. The UN water conference that takes place in New York on 22-24 March 2024 spotlights countries’ commitments to face these challenges and set a clear agenda for the second half of the Decade for Water Action (2018-2028) and beyond.
Video series to highlight water actions in Eastern Partner countries
In Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, people from different backgrounds are taking action for water. They represent important drivers of change for their countries. A series of videos and articles produced with the support of the EU4Environment Water and Data programme tells stories of how important it is in these countries to protect rivers, lakes, and all water ecosystems.
The Ukrainian population suffering from the impacts of war has made all of us realise that safe access to drinking water is a basic human right. The example of Armenian farmers switching to more ecological practices shows that it is possible to grow food by respecting soils and rivers. The Khojasan Lake in Azerbaijan reminds us that there is only one health system that jointly affects humans, animals and ecosystems. The inhabitants of river basins in Georgia highlight the need to bring local stakeholders into the discussion and make them part of water policy development and its successful implementation. The cooperation between the Republic of Moldova, Romania and Ukraine on the Prut river basin is necessary to tackle severe water quality problems, declining biodiversity, and the impacts of climate change, such as increasingly frequent floods and droughts.
Building a common water culture between the European Union and the Eastern partners
The Water Framework Directive is an important pillar of the European Union’s proposal to improve water policies and practices in the Eastern Partnership countries, in addition to the Protocol on Water and Health and the Water Convention on Transboundary Basins promoted by the United Nations.
Concepts must be assimilated locally by stakeholders and regulations, such as: the importance of ecosystem services and the need for biological monitoring, decentralisation at river basin scale, and the participation of water users and local stakeholders in water resources management to better balance all water uses (environment, agriculture, domestic, energy, industry). In countries under water stress, specific approaches are proposed: water quantitative management plans, water accounts and targeted economic tools as important levers for changing non-sustainable or even harmful practices.
The local geopolitical context may make it difficult to implement smooth cross-border cooperation. However, visions and concrete tools are being put in place in each country to facilitate joint management of water resources: river basin management plans on both sides of the border, joint field surveys on transboundary rivers, studies of transboundary aquifers, support to establish transboundary commissions, etc.
The European Union together with Eastern Partner countries can build an economy that is based on the well-being of people and water ecosystems. Together, we can make a stronger contribution to a much more ecologically harmonious society, where we can ensure our well-being in ways that do not deteriorate our environment.