Europe's Water for All

Europe's beaches and waterways are enjoyed by tourists from around the world. The Water Framework Directive demands are proving tough for many countries but protecting the natural environment should be a priority for all, regardless of European bureaucracy.

Tom Freyberg
Tom Freyberg

Europe's beaches and waterways are enjoyed by tourists from around the world. The Water Framework Directive demands are proving tough for many countries but protecting the natural environment should be a priority for all, regardless of European bureaucracy.

I've just enjoyed a sunny Bank Holiday weekend in the UK. I know: sun and the UK aren't usually used in the same sentence. Part of the weekend was spent on the coast with a beachside walk followed by a BBQ with friends. The rest of it was spent with family enjoying a local river nature reserve and grounds. There's nothing better than being by the water when the sun is shining.

So why would you be interested in my weekend activities? Because it ties with the theme of this issue of WWi perfectly: European water.

Croatia

We're talking about the Water Framework Directive (WFD). While this all-encompassing piece of regulation might be seen as the "elephant in the room" for a lot of water professionals, it is hard to talk about water and Europe without it.

Unfortunately it seems the continent is struggling to really come to grips with what is required from the WFD. Firstly Poland (page 42), as you may know, has been summoned by the European Commission to the European Court of Justice for failing to fully enact the regulation. As you will read the country failed to really estimate the costs required to meet the Directive. Interestingly, even Germany – one of the last economic powerhouses left in Europe – is reportedly having issues and has requested to extend deadlines from 2015 to 2021.

Croatia faces similar challenges (page 38). After struggling for a decade, the country will be the second of the former Yugoslavian countries to the join the EU in the summer. The EU membership brings with it increased regulation of its water sector.

It's worth noting that home to the Dalmatian Coast and Adriatic Sea, Croatia's coastline is adored by tourists from all over the world. As a result, the country generates €6.61 billion through tourism alone.

Personally, having spent a couple of weeks island hopping in Croatia – from Split to Hvar and Korcula – to a 10 day road trip from Dubrovnik down into Montenegro, this is one of my favourite seas and coastlines. It's stunning. And so it's worth keeping that way. Yet the overhanging WFD weight on Europe's shoulders (page 36) doesn't seem to be stifling technology innovation.

Turn to page 10 to see an interview with the company spearheading forward osmosis: Modern Water. I got a chance to meet executive chairman Neil McDougall at the company's HQ in England and was impressed with his vision to take a university R&D project and turn it into a multi-million pound business.

Elsewhere in Europe, Dutch company PWN Technologies is making progress with its ceramic membrane technology for drinking water applications. South West Water (page 30) has started a trial treating surface water and we managed to catch up with the UK utility about their hopes for the technology.

If that wasn't enough for you on membranes, we also feature a detailed look at the potential for osmotic power. Statkraft in Norway (page 24) is spearheading a trial involving Israeli company IDE Technologies to generate natural power by mixing fresh and salt water together. Italy, too, is currently developing an osmotic power plant under the Blue Energy Initiative. With estimates suggesting osmotic power could generate 15% of the world's energy supply, it's one process the water sector may want to take a closer look at.

So there we have it. Yes, many water professionals may be banging their heads over WFD demands and decisions taken by European bureaucrats in Brussels who might not fully understand the sector, but the regulation is in place for a reason. Europe is fantastic continent to visit and the tourist dollar should not be underestimated.

People need to continue visiting countries like Spain, Greece and Portugal to add tourist revenue to struggling economies. A clean environment will be important as part of the attraction.

And let's face it; nobody wants to spend a public holiday in their own country on polluted seas, beaches and rivers.

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