What impact do households have on their environment? That is what the European Commission sought to assess. On 10 December, it published its report entitled "Facts and figures on the environment: from environmental taxes to water resources".
The report provides figures on waste, water, land use, environmental protection and environmental taxes. It supplements "The European environment – state and outlook 2010", aiming to compare the environmental policies of the 27 EU Member States amongst themselves and with other countries. Where possible, it also examines any progress that has been made.
Concerning water in particular, Eurostat calculates a "water exploitation index" which represents the total volume of water abstracted in a given year as a share of freshwater resources, i.e. groundwater or surface water (rivers and lakes).
Two main findings emerge. First, water resources are unevenly distributed due to variations in geography, climate and population density. For example, water resources range from 100 m3 per inhabitant in Malta or 400 m3 in Cyprus to 20,700 m3 per inhabitant in Finland, 19,800 m3 in Sweden and 15,800 m3 in Slovenia. Second, the level of use of water by households, industry, energy suppliers and agriculture also varies, according to Eurostat. The report states that "the lowest shares [of water abstracted are] observed in Latvia, Slovakia and Sweden (all 1%) and Ireland (2%), and the highest in Cyprus (64%), Belgium (32%), Spain (30%) and Malta (21%)."
These environmental statistics are a fundamental aid to achieving a "better environment for everyone" by encouraging changes in behaviour, stated one Commission press release. They may help lay the groundwork for sanctions to penalise those who pollute or abuse the environment. With this goal in mind, a map for effective resource use in Europe is slated for release in June 2011. It will constitute one of the flagship measures of the "Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth".