Could this be the beer of the future?
A lot of things go into beer production, but it all starts with good quality water. But imagine a world where your favourite beer looked, smelt and tasted like dirty water. Or instead of your usual pint, you were served up a bowl of dry, crunchy hops. That’s the scenario 100 NGOs want to prevent as they launch a new campaign calling on the European Commission to defend the EU law that protects all sources of Europe’s water, such as rivers, streams, lakes, wetlands and groundwater, during its ongoing evaluation (known as a “fitness check”).
The online campaign, called #ProtectWater, is led by WWF, the European Environmental Bureau, European Anglers Alliance, European Rivers Network and Wetlands International, who together form the Living Rivers Europe coalition.
The campaign uses provocative scenarios and imagery around the future of beer to encourage citizens in Europe and beyond to participate in the European Commission’s public consultation on the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), which is running until 4 March 2019. This consultation is the only opportunity for the general public to have its say during the evaluation of the law, and the campaign provides an easy tool for citizens to express their support to keep this law strong and effective.
Whilst the scenarios painted in the campaign might seem extreme, beer companies are indeed worried about the future quality of water in Europe, and have issued a joint statement, signed by individual breweries, including Csupor, Pivovarna Trot, and Ground Zero, as well as the Romanian Craft Brewers' Association and Slovakia’s Association of Small Independent Breweries. All of these companies recognise that their ability to produce good quality beer relies on the protection and sustainable management of Europe’s water sources, and therefore support the WFD in its current form.
Andreas Baumüller, Head of Natural Resources at WWF’s European Policy Office said: “Member States’ half-hearted implementation of the EU water law is a crime in itself, but their desperate attempts to weaken it - and before the Commission’s fitness check has even concluded - is a step too far. We urge citizens across Europe and beyond to join forces through the #ProtectWater campaign and make their voices heard. We all need clean water, and without the WFD, this will be under serious threat. Act now to defend the EU water law!”
WWF-DCP Regional Freshwater Lead, says:
“In Central and Eastern Europe many of our rivers are still in good conditions. This is not only good for nature. The many benefits people get from such healthy rivers are clean drinking water, opportunities for recreation and tourism, or lower flood risks. Two million Hungarians get their drinking water from the Danube! Proper enforcement of the EU Water Framework Directive ensures that economic development can take place without jeopardizing these services our rivers provide. It prevents the construction of unsustainable small hydropower, old fashioned flood protection infrastructure or harmful navigation projects. So, it is critically important to make sure this piece of legislation stays in place and is not watered down.”
Freshwater ecosystems are the most threatened on the planet  and the situation is no different in Europe. 60% of EU waters are not healthy today  because Member States have allowed them to be exploited in ways that cause permanent harm, such as through dams, the construction of other destructive infrastructure, and unsustainable agriculture. Through the WFD, Member States agreed to put a stop to this and achieve “good status” for their waters by 2027 at the very latest (the original 2015 deadline was missed by a long shot). 2027 is also the year which the #ProtectWater campaign playfully poses as the fictional ‘expiration date’ for good beer.
Where political will exists, the WFD provides an effective framework for addressing the main pressures facing our waters , but Member States need to significantly step up their efforts and funding if the 2027 deadlines are to be achieved. Results to improve the health of their waters have been few and far between, and Member States are now discussing how the law can be weakened to introduce greater flexibility for themselves.
Mark Owen of the European Anglers Alliance said: “Europe’s rivers and lakes are dying under our eyes and, through the beer imagery, we want to open citizens’ eyes to their unacceptable deterioration and compel them to take action. Only a bad workman blames his tools. There is no doubt that the WFD is the right tool to protect and restore Europe’s waters, and that Member States are the clear culprits: for the best part of two decades, they have relentlessly dodged their commitments and avoided effective delivery on the legally binding objectives.”
Sergiy Moroz, Senior Policy Officer for Water and Biodiversity for the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), said: “The EU has world-leading water protection laws that are up to the job of protecting freshwater ecosystems from pressures such as the impact of hydropower and pollution and over-abstraction from agriculture and industry. But, shockingly, the political will from EU governments to use them is lacking. It is unacceptable that instead of trying to improve the health of our rivers and lakes EU governments are discussing how to weaken vital protection for our waters.”
Eef Silver, Policy Officer at Wetlands International said: “Pressures from agriculture, hydropower and climate change suggest that guaranteeing water quality will continue to be a critical environmental issue. Ecological river restoration measures contribute significantly to delivering good water quality but huge gaps remain in the implementation of our strong water legislation. Member States should not lose a minute to implement large scale restoration measures and reverse the ongoing deterioration of our rivers.”
Roberto Epple, President European Rivers Network, said: “The Water Framework Directive is our most powerful tool to ensure that Europe’s rivers, lakes and wetlands are protected and restored for generations to come. It shouldn’t be weakened but strongly supported by all Member States and enforces by the EU. Through this campaign, citizens can join the fight to protect our waters”.
More information about the
#ProtectWater campaign is available at: www.livingrivers.eu