Prolonged drought and extreme heat have spoiled crops, disrupted trade routes and led to hosepipe bans. Europe has experienced a punishing summer.

The Rhine, a vitally important economic waterway, has suffered months without rainfall. The Loire in France has all but dried up in places. And the Danube, which cuts through 10 European countries and serves as a strategically important connection to Ukraine, has reached historically low levels.

Cracked river beds and dusted lawns can have an immediate impact on how we understand the natural environment. We are helpless without the regular rains that allow our economies to function, the Ecologist has reported.


Managing water demand is a complex task, but we are often unable to rise to the challenge. In England and Wales, for example, an estimated 3 billion litres of water are lost every day to leakage, equivalent to 20% of total supply.

The availability of such high-quality water can no longer be taken for granted. NASA research dating back a decade found that 21 of the world’s largest 37 aquifers have exceeded sustainability tipping points, with 13 considered significantly distressed.

Simply put, the problem is high demand, poor management and a ravaged climate. And so far we have made little progress towards addressing the problem. The UN found that between 2015 and 2018 water efficiency rose by a modest 9% among major economic users.

One of the reasons we’ve failed to tackle water scarcity is the singular focus on climate. In our headlong rush to cut carbon emissions, we’ve ignored the essential connectedness between our demands on nature: deforestation impacts rainfall; climate change affects water supply.

The full story in the Ecologist can be read here.

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