A multi reference point based index to assess and monitor European water policies from a sustainability approach

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The scarcity of water resources is a serious problem that concerns governments and international institutions. The importance of water resources and the expectations of billions of people with serious water shortages and subsequent food shortages have made European water policy makers focus all their attention on the sustainability of water as a resource. In this paper we propose a new Water Sustainability Indicator based on a MultiReference methodology (WSI-MR) which permits modeling compensation between the analyzed criteria and provides a participative approach. The WSI-MR provides results based on 19 variables grouped into 5 dimensions: availability, access, resilience, good governance and economic capacity. The indicator was applied to assess water sustainability in 27 European countries. The results showed that Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom obtained the best global results in terms of weak water (compensatory) sustainability. Using a non-compensatory approach, no country gained acceptable results in terms of strong sustainability. Some subdimensions related to climate change and the state of freshwater resources were detected as especially vulnerable in all the analyzed countries. Finally, the study identified some eastern European countries with low GDP and good performance of availability and cost of water, where bad results in terms of governance and water productivity could jeopardize water sustainability in the event of a potential economic development, if these limitations are not addressed. In a context of economic and political instability, due to the current armed conflict in nearby countries such as Ukraine, it is especially important to pay attention to these countries, whose good governance indicators could worsen even more. The proposed indicator is useful to identify warning signs and can contribute to the improvement in decision-making processes and to monitoring international water policies.
CRUE-CSIC (Acuerdos Transformativos 2022)