Hydraulic fracturing poses a potential threat to European water sources, so European Union member states must ensure that companies exploring for and exploiting shale gas deposits comply with all environmental directives, according to European Parliament Water Group founder and President Richard Seeber.
“I really believe that fracking does pose a danger for European water deposits. We do not have technology that would eliminate the danger of having water contaminated though the process,” Seeber told OOSKAnews in a recent interview during a parliamentary session in Strasbourg, France.
“I believe when the world comes up with waterless fracking technologies that prove to be efficient and danger-free, then shale gas exploration and extraction will get a significant boost throughout Europe,” he said. “The bottom line is this: all the EU member states have to strictly comply with the EU environment directives, and what we demand now, that shale gas explorers and drillers should be bound to performing continuous environmental impact assessments -- from the start of shale gas exploration until the fracking phase, and thereafter.”
Seeber said the most recent Water Group meeting, held back in October, had focused on water recycling.
“I really believe the [European] Commission ought to come up with a strict, European-water-interests-corresponding law” on the issue, he said. “The issue of water reuse is getting especially crucial, with more European regions struggling with droughts and with entire sectors, like agriculture or energy, suffering from them as a result.”
The issue of pharmaceuticals in potable water will be “extremely important taking into account the EU efforts to reuse water,” he added.
Seeber called for a more uniform “European approach” in the water sector.
“I’d like everyone to think about this: Around 80 percent of all river basins of the European Union are cross-border, meaning that the water quality cannot be guaranteed only with a single EU country’s efforts,” he said.
However, he acknowledged that there were “huge” differences among EU member countries in terms of their water situation.
“On one hand we have countries like Austria and Scandinavian nations, with large water resources, very well developed water infrastructure and high local public awareness of water issues. On the other hand, we deal with scarcity of water in some southern EU countries. And between these are pretty new EU member states like Romania, Bulgaria and now Croatia, where water infrastructure needs urgent rehabilitation and immediate solutions,” he said.
Most Europeans have “pretty good access to potable water,” according to Seeber. He said he himself drinks tap water in all European countries “without any exception. And as a matter of fact, I have never regretted doing that so far.”
However, “when it comes to wastewater treatment there are a whole lot more differences” among EU members, he said.
“In that regard, we see a certain lag in some Eastern and Central European countries. According to an estimation announced recently in a high-profile water event in Copenhagen, only half the EU member states have fully aligned their wastewater treatment legislations to the EU standards. Most of the countries that still need to transpose the EU wastewater treatment regulation in their national legislation are from Central and Eastern Europe,” Seeber explained.
The EU has allocated $4.1 billion USD for its main water program, LIFE, for 2014-2020, and in addition, $449.5 billion USD is being allocated for EU regional development in the same period, some of which can be used for water infrastructure projects, he said.
The EP Water Group was created in 2009. It deals with issues including adaptation to climate change, awareness raising and education, the water-energy nexus, exchange of experiences in implementing the EU Water Framework Directive, sustainability and availability of infrastructure, water-related research, achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals, implementing the EU's Urban Wastewater Directive, public health, and biodiversity.
Seeber is an MEP from Austria and a member of the Group of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats).
This story is brought to readers free in association with Singapore International Water Week.