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Impact of a changing climate, land use, and water usage on Europe’s water resources

This report describes an assessment of the projected future impacts of climate change, land use change and changes in water consumption on Europe’s water resources, as obtained using JRC’s LISFLOOD water resources model. This assessment is done within the framework of the PESETA III climate project executed by JRC for DG CLIMA. The LISFLOOD model is being developed by JRC since 1997 and is used in the flood early warning system EFAS, the drought System EDO, and the global flood alert System GloFAS. The model is frequently updated, improved, extended, calibrated and validated against observed data.

Cyprus, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Turkey will be facing similar problems as researchers foresee significant reductions in groundwater replenishment, particularly for Greece. An annual loss of 810 million cubic meters of water is estimated, translated to reduced availability of water for irrigation of agricultural crops and hence reduced the availability of food.

The future impact of climate change will bring changes in land use and water consumption habits. Scientists believe that on the one hand there will be increased floods, but on the other hand, water scarcity will worsen, especially during summertime. The consequences are mainly attributed to climate change (80 to 90 percent) and secondly to other factors, such as land and water use (10 to 20 percent).

The growing drought in the European South will lead to an increased shortage of water and reduced water supplies for hydroelectric plants in Mediterranean countries such as Greece. This will mean, in addition to agriculture and food, that the energy and transport sectors will be negatively affected as well. 

Greece and Cyprus are the two countries that will be affected the most by a two-degree rise in temperature. Water availability will be lower, with an increase of about 100 percent in the water demand to water availability ratio. The two Mediterranean countries will have the greatest imbalance in water supply and demand in Europe.

Scientists made estimates at a depth of 30 years, based on an optimistic scenario and a pessimistic scenario. The first is that the goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement for global warming of fewer than two degrees Celsius will be reached. The second scenario is that global warming will exceed two degrees Celsius and can even go up to four. Although in the most optimistic scenario the consequences are expected to be less severe, yet there will still be more floods and more water scarcity to come.

In the good case scenario, in Mediterranean countries including Greece, the number of people expected to be affected by water scarcity by the end of the century will rise from 85 million today to 104 million.

Central and northern European countries will have larger stocks of water each year, but also more floods than southern European countries

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Bisselink, B., Bernhard, J., Gelati, E., Adamovic, M., Guenther, S., Mentaschi, L. and De Roo, A., Impact of a changing climate, land use, and water usage on Europe’s water resources, EUR 29130 EN, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2018, ISBN 978-92-79-80287-4, doi:10.2760/847068, JRC110927.