Water Economics and Ecosystem Accounts
With the European Union (EU) Water Framework Directive (WFD) being implemented and the first River Basin Management Plans (RBMPs) adopted, it is time to review how the economic-related information collected and analysed as part of the WFD implementation process can help strengthening other policy initiatives in the field of information and statistics. The objective of this study is to integrate water–economics information that results from the implementation and reporting of the WFD and the development of its RBMPs into the European Environment Agency (EEA) Fast Track Ecosystem Accounts Methodology.
Water economics has gained recognition in recent years as an integral component of integrated water management and policy. In particular, the European Union (EU) Water Framework Directive (WFD) has given a key role to economic principles (e.g. the polluter pays principle), methods (e.g. cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit assessments) and instruments (e.g. water pricing, environmental taxes and charges) in water management and policy in Europe. Indeed, specific articles of the WFD put obligations on EU Member States (MS) in terms of assessment and integration of economic instruments in water policy (see in particular explicit references to water economics in Article 5, Article 9 and Annex III of the WFD, but also the implicit references made in Article 4 for example in the context of the justification of exemptions).
With the WFD being implemented and the first River Basin Management Plans adopted, it is time to review the role water economics have effectively played in the implementation process. In particular, because of the efforts MS have put in applying economics in the RBMP process, specific attention should be given to how the economic-related information collected and analysed as part of the WFD implementation can be put together, mobilised, structured and shared more widely, and how it can help strengthening other policy initiatives in the field of information and statistics.
One key area of interest, in particular, is how this economic information could be mobilised for feeding into parallel activities aimed at measuring ecosystem degradation and relating it to the capacity to deliver (ecosystem) services sustainably today and in the future. This is the focus of the fast track ecosystem accounts that is led by the European Environment Agency (EEA) and that incorporates water accounts following the UN System of Environmental-Economic Accounting for Water (SEEAW).
As such, this study contributes to bridging the gap between two major policy initiatives:
- The WFD that has received significant policy attention in the last decades including in terms of the implementation of its economic elements
- The UN-led work on Systems of Environmental-Economic Accounting for Water (SEEAW) in which the EEA plays a significant role.
In addition, the study will bring the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) into the picture, this directive being at its early implementation stages but having similar obligations and requirements in terms of economics as the WFD.
More specifically the study will: (1) contribute to bridging the gap between these initiatives by clarifying the water-economics terminology that is used and building a common glossary; (2) collate water economics information developed as a result of the WFD implementation process and (3) input this information to the fast track water accounts.