Canal with algae
Canal: New report demonstrates how nature can help address a broad range of water security challenges © The Nature Conservancy


Nature-Based Solutions Are Key for European Water Security

New report demonstrates how nature can help address a broad range of water security challenges

Water security is at the heart of healthy and prosperous societies. European countries’ prosperity depends on their ability to maintain the gains they have achieved in water security and address new and rising challenges.

Nature Based Solutions can be deployed to address water challenges related to surface water quality, groundwater quality, floods and water scarcity. This report outlines a strategic vision to mobilise greater investments in nature address Europe’s outstanding water security challenges.

Nature-based solutions for water security can help protect freshwater resources and safeguard nature’s integrity. They can make a significant contribution to reversing the rapid decline in freshwater biodiversity in Europe, adapt to climate change and mitigate its impacts. These solutions are increasingly seen as cost-efficient strategies that need to be mainstreamed in water resource management strategies. 

The report’s main objectives are:

  • To identify the roles that nature-based solutions can play to tackle Europe’s water security challenges, as part of hybrid (green-grey) water investment strategies;
  • To extract learning from on-the-ground experiences with investments in nature for water security in Europe and identify enabling conditions and barriers to scale;
  • To formulate recommendations on what needs to be done differently to achieve scale and contribute to boost water security and resilience in the European Union.

NbS-WS are “actions to protect, sustainably manage and restore natural or modified ecosystems that address water security challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits”. Some of these measures entail investments in so-called green infrastructure (e.g., reforestation and building artificial wetlands), while other solutions consist of improved management practices (e.g., agricultural practices leading to reduced fertiliser or pesticides use).

Nature-based solutions for water challenges in Europe
Nature-Based Solutions for Water Categories of water challenges and corresponding nature-based solutions © TNC

Currently in Europe, NbS-WS are mostly funded through public sources. Some European actors have led the way and invested in NbS-WS, including utilities, cities, river basin agencies or large water users, with the support of public funders and regulatory agencies.

TNC with the support of its partners ICLEI and Ecologic in Europe, documented 19 case studies where these actors have engaged with upstream land stewards and water users to protect water sources, by buying and protecting land, working with farmers and forest managers to support change in agricultural practices or building artificial wetlands to reduce the costs of waste-water treatment. 

Nature Based Solutions for European Water Security
Water Security Challenges in Europe This map shows various challenges faced by countries in Europe, such as flooding and groundwater challenges. © TNC

The Nature Conservancy is fortunate to have the support of visionary people and organizations, whose generosity allows us to pursue our mission. We are grateful to the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Foundation for supporting our work to find water solutions that work for rivers and the communities that depend on them.