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Interview Details

Interview with Jo Leinen

  • Chairman, Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Security
  • Dated: Thursday, March 31st 2011

  • EWP:  Talking about the future… “Is the glass half empty or half full”? Are you optimistic or pessimistic concerning the water future of Europe and the world?

    Jo Leinen:  I prefer to be optimistic. Of course, it sounds alarming when you hear that the worldwide demand for water might exceed global supply by almost 40% by 2030. But there are many possibilities to close this gap. The water efficiency in the EU could be increased by nearly 40% through technical improvements. In addition, water waste due to leakages in water pipes should be reduced, as it still causes a loss of 10-25% in Europe. Similar measures can be taken on a global level, to guarantee the supply of water for people, business and ecosystems.


    EWP:  Two months ago you participated in the World Social Forum in 2011 in Dakar. The preservation of the planet and the sustainable access to water was one of the main topics discussed. What role should the EU play in securing the world's water resources?

    Jo Leinen: Even though only a fraction of water reserves is available as drinking water, these water resources would be sufficient to give access to clean water to everyone if only it was distributed evenly. Access to clean water – most importantly drinking water – is a human right that has been acknowledged by the United Nations. It is a scandal that 1.1 billion humans are cut off of clean water resources and that 2.5 billion lack basic sanitary infrastructure, most of them in developing and emerging countries.

    In most cases, the distribution of water is a task that has to be achieved by many countries. We therefore need effective water management plans on regional and transnational levels to distribute this precious resource. The EU must make use of its experience in managing resources on a supranational level and help build up institutions that provide water as a public good.

    Water needs to become a top priority in the EU's and other industrialized countries' Foreign and Development Policy to ensure that everyone has access to clean water, regardless of wealth.


    EWP: This year, the European Commission focused on Resource Efficiency, followed in 2012 by the European Year of Water. Where do you see the necessities and opportunities to go beyond efficiency with regards to water? Are there any other aspects of water management that should be considered?

    Jo Leinen: In principal we need to raise the awareness of all water consumers about possibilities of saving water. Major savings can be achieved in the field of agriculture, land use and land management in urban areas, but even in our everyday life. A widespread installation of metering devices and labeling schemes which display the used amount of water could be very supportive. In a next step, we have to go beyond simple saving of water towards balanced efficiency models, that involve the use of energy or social aspects of water supply on a river basin scale. Therefore, innovative programs and facilities are needed on the business level, such as the EWP Water Stewardship Program, that enable the access to criteria to control and evaluate the sustainable use of operational water.


    EWP: To conclude, [on a personal basis], what would you put as first priority on a to-do-list for the EU in order to move Europe towards more sustainable water use?   

    Jo Leinen: It is difficult to identify one single priority for the EU, so I would call "mainstreaming the challenges of the future water supply on all levels of policy-making, from the global to the local level" as most important. In this context, improvements in infrastructure, technology and water management plans as well as increasing the efficient and sustainable use are vital. Problems in the water supply, such as water scarcity or degradation of quality will affect regions in a different way, yet common approaches and best practices are needed and can be passed on.


    EWP: Thank you for the interview.

  • Jo Leinen
  • Chairman, Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Security
  • Mr. Jo Leinen is Chairman of the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Security in the European Parliament which regularly deals with water legislation. In the actual term it addresses the future challenges of the European water supply in form of specific reports on water scarcity and droughts and on adaptation to climate change. As former Environment Minister in the State Government of Saarland/ Germany (April 1985 - November 1994) and Leader of the European Parliament's Delegation to the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen and Cancun as well as to the UN Biodiversity Conference in Nagoya, Mr. Leinen was concerned about water issues from a broad perspective. This year, Mr. Leinen participated in the World Social Forum in Dakar and the Informal Environmental Ministers Council in Budapest to put the future of water supply high on the political agenda.
"We have to go beyond simple saving of water towards balanced efficiency models"

- Jo Leinen
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