The summer of 2018 has shown once more that drought risks are not only limited to Mediterranean regions but can also affect Northern Europe, a region not commonly known for frequent water scarcity issues. Climate change will further increase the severity of water stress across Europe in the next years and decades, in some regions more than in others. Timely adaptation is of major importance to make Europe climate-resilient.
However, the European Commission report on the implementation of the Water Framework Directive (2019) has shown once more: drought risk management is not yet where it should be. Still, only a few member states either have set up drought risk management plans or have otherwise covered the topic extensively within river basin management plans. At the same time, climate change increases the pressure to act on making Europe more resilient to droughts and water scarcity.
The work of the research and innovation project IMPREX provides some valuable insights for improved implementation of the existing policy framework on droughts at basin level, such as:
Defining basin-specific impact-based indices is essential to manage local drought risk.
Enhancing monitoring infrastructure on basin level is key to manage present and future drought risk.
Considering seasonal forecasts when developing decision support tools for drought risk management helps manage drought situations in time.
Harmonizing water accounting approaches between basins while integrating local climate impact assessments allows for more evidence-based decision making at the EU level and at the same time enhances acceptance at the basin level.
Appropriate acknowledgement of the importance of preventive drought risk management by member states and the European Commission (EC) is needed, paired with respective concrete steps:
On the EU level: setting up a firm policy framework for drought risk management, providing improved guidance and support for its implementation, and paying sufficient attention to local features in assessing drought risks across Europe.
At the member state level: increasing capacity to adequately respond to current and future drought risks, e.g. by enhancing the drought monitoring and forecasting infrastructure at basin level to monitor and develop basin-specific drought indices that can complement regional stakeholder assessments, or by improving anticipatory operational drought risk management.