The World Water Forum in Istanbul in March 2009 confirmed that Europe currently benefits from a privileged situation regarding water resources and has made important progress concerning water management, infrastructure, technologies and legislation over the past decades.
However, recent European surveys reveal that water scarcity, droughts, floods related to climate change, and access to safe sanitation are still challenging the Old Continent. In 2003 widespread droughts affected over 100 million people and a third of the EU territory. The cost of damage to the European economy was estimated to be at least 8.7 billion Euros (12,35 billion US$). The total cost of droughts over the past thirty years amounts to 100 billion Euros (142 billion US$). With an estimated total price tag of around 6 billion Euros (8,52 billion US$) per year for EU countries, water scarcity and droughts represent a serious and growing threat to human health and economic development. Twenty million people still don’t have access to basic sanitation in Central Eastern Europe.
These numbers are alarming and compound the importance of awareness raising about Europe’s water challenges so that the continent’s future economic growth and its agenda for sustainable development is not threatened. Most European citizens are not yet aware of these water challenges since they are not familiar with the water situation in their region, city or river basin, and those who are attentive do not know how they could contribute to more efficient and sustainable water management.
A coherent strategy is needed to mobilize people around common values for joint action to find common solutions and ultimately attain sustainable water management and use in Europe in the future. In order to achieve these community values, Europe needs new ways of working together. A change in thinking is essential in order to stimulate action among political decisions-makers, business and citizens. More awareness raising is therefore fundamental today for future concrete implementations of sustainable solutions.
In order to become more resource efficient a better understanding of the interlinkeages between water, energy and climate change is crucial. A higher number of skilled and trained people is needed to address water challenges in a comprehensive and cross-sectoral approach. To reach out and to involve stakeholders increased, more focused and better communication is essential. Local and regional success stories have to be provided with high visibility encouraging others to follow and saving human and financial resources thus generating smarter and more responsible people.
The basic tool for raising awareness on responsible water management on all social and geographical levels is to make information on sustainable water use available to everybody. Improved information creates transparency pertaining to the water situation and ensures a realistic and objective decision-making process on all levels. In that way, it encourages the change in behaviour, practices and habits and supports efficient policy-making processes.
In 2007 the EWP started an open multi stakeholder process inviting everybody to join the culture of change and to strive together towards sustainable water management in Europe.
This process created Aquawareness and lead to the set up of the Water Vision for Europe.
 European Commission, Communication on Water Scarcity and Droughts COM (2007) 414
 Throughout this proposal the conversion rate of 11 August 2009 has been used: 1 euro = 1,42012 US$
 5th World Water Forum, Istanbul 2009, European Regional Document, p. 36
 5th World Water Forum, Istanbul 2009, European Regional Document, p.42