Flooding and water scarcity in Europe will increase in the coming decades, in particular if the objectives of the Paris Agreement on climate change are not met. Several studies, including JRC study released in 2018, have looked at the impact of the changing climate, land use and water usage on Europe's water resources. It is known by science and mostly by facts that Southern European countries – particularly Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Turkey – are projected to face increased water shortages. Significant reductions in groundwater recharge are estimated for Spain, Portugal and Greece, with negative impacts on the environment and water availability for irrigation. Increasing droughts will lead to water scarcity and reduced hydropower resources in the Mediterranean region. This is likely to have knock-on effects on agriculture, energy, transport and food security. Within a growing global trend of water consumption, European society and economy in different territories are asked to tackle the trends in boosting resilient infrastructures, circular economy and enabling multi-stakeholders governance, as these will determine the competitiveness of European water industry.
Therefore, water plays a central role in how societies mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change. A holistic approach considering water, the biosphere, and the anthroposphere is required to provide sustainable agricultural and economic systems that will allow us to decelerate climate change, protect us from extremes events and adapt to the unavoidable at the same time.
Considering the extent of this challenge, four Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) – EIT Food, EIT Climate-KIC, EIT Manufacturing and EIT Raw Material - supported by the European institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) Regional Innovation Scheme - have joined forces with BioAzul to work in an holistic way and bring expertise to enhance knowledge and overcome current barriers to tackle one of the biggest challenge for Southern Europe through innovation.
Main activities along 2020 will be establishing a group of experts on water scarcity in Southern Europe, delivering focused Entrepreneur challenge Labs for start-ups as to facilitate in this way the transition from idea to business, organizing the EIT Water Academy for water scarcity challenge education, including EIT workshops with public bodies and other stakeholders across different regions and communication activities to reach out to citizens and interested stakeholders, engaging in events and media to raise awareness about water scarcity for citizens.
In the upcoming weeks, we will be looking for experts including not only researchers, but also outstanding profiles from policy makers, NGOs organization, civil associations, industry players who can give a valuable contribution to the multi-stakeholders perspective that we need to tackle such societal challenge.