European freshwaters

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  • The EU Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) is probably the most significant legislative instrument in the water field that was introduced on an international basis for many years. It moves towards integrated environmental management with key objectives to prevent any further deterioration of water bodies, and protect and enhance the status of aquatic ecosystems and associated wetlands. It aims to promote sustainable water consumption and will contribute to mitigating the effects of floods and droughts.

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  • The landmass on which we live is an integral part of our water catchment. Any human activity will inevitably have some consequences on the availability and composition of fresh waters. These consequences are becoming increasingly important and detectable as the human population grows. The problem is to be addressed at the global scale, as frequently, decisions made have inter-regional and international impacts, and must therefore be coordinated. In a number of European Member States, for example, the availability of water resources depends on the activities of other upstream countries.

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  • The world’s major food items, core requirements for human health, come from wetland ecosystems. Rice, a staple food item for almost half the world’s popu- lation, is grown in a wide range of environments, mostly wetland ecosystems. Rice receives 35–45% of the world’s irrigation water and some 24–30% of developed freshwater resources.

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  • In addition to global climate change, these include: the health risks posed by stratospheric ozone depletion; loss of biodiversity; stresses on terrestrial and ocean food-producing systems; changes in hydrological systems and the sup- plies of freshwater; and the global dissemination of persistent organic pollutants. Climate change and stratospheric ozone depletion are the best known of these various global environmental changes.

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