EU member states need to do more to protect water resources and ensure long term sustainable use, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) suggest.
Its new report reveals the EU has been “only partially successful” in integrating water policy goals into the common agricultural policy (CAP).
The CAP represents just under 40% of the EU budget and through it, the EU seeks to influence agricultural practices affecting water.
The auditors analysed two areas which are being used to integrate the EU’s water policy objectives into the CAP: cross compliance, which links certain CAP payments with specific environmental requirements and the rural development fund, which provides financial incentives for actions going beyond compulsory rules to improve water quality.
They highlighted weaknesses in both areas and pointed out delays in the implementation of the Water Framework Directive.
Kevin Cardiff, the ECA Member responsible for the report said: “In Europe agriculture is quite naturally a major user of water – around one-third of total water use – and is a source of pressure on water resources, for example through nutrient pollution in water.
“While there has been progress, the Commission and Member States need to better integrate water policy concerns with the common agricultural policy to ensure long-term sustainable water use”.
The report also highlighted there is insufficient knowledge in EU institutions and in member states about the pressures placed on water as a result of agricultural activities.