Water is a precious resource that has to be protected and managed sustainably, especially in light of the pressures of climate change. The main challenge for Alpine countries, their regions, and municipalities is to secure the water supply for both nature and people. This was the theme of a thematic conference in Scuol (Engadin) organised by the Swiss Presidency of EUSALP, the EU Strategy for the Alpine Region.
On 16 June 2023, participants gathered in the Swiss town of Scuol to learn about and exchange on various aspects of water management in transition. The conference consisted of a political panel, a discussion on best practices in water protection and conservation, and two panels exploring water as a resource. The conference closed with a call to action from four members of the EUSALP Youth Council.
Alenka Smerkolj, Secretary General of the Alpine Convention, took part in the political panel. She highlighted the legislative framework for the debate in the scope of the Alpine Convention, and the importance of cooperation at local regional, national, and transnational level on water management issues.
In the Alpine Convention’s Framework Convention, the objectives in the field of water management are to preserve or re-establish healthy water systems, avoid pollution of lakes and rivers, and use hydropower in a way that serves the interests of both the Alpine population and the environment. Furthermore, in 2020, the Alpine Conference adopted a Declaration on integrated and sustainable water management in the Alps. The Declaration commits the Alpine countries to, among others, protect the remaining naturally preserved river courses of the Alps, promote climate adaptation linked to water-related natural hazards, and to focus on managing water scarcity.
“Building trust between Alpine institutions and encouraging them to share experiences and knowledge and tackle common challenges cooperatively is key. Water management is an area in which the Alpine Convention can help facilitate dialogue and cooperation,” said Secretary General Alenka Smerkolj.
Following the thematic conference, EUSALP Action Group 6, led by the Permanent Secretariat of the Alpine Convention and the Region of Carinthia, and Action Group 2 organised a technical workshop on water management. The focus was on projects and funding in the EUSALP region. The four projects presented were on remote sensing satellites for improving water quality monitoring of Alpine lakes, the vulnerability of mountain livestock farming to droughts (ADO – Alpine Drought Observatory), the EUREGIO project “Rock-me” looking at the response of rock glaciers to global warming, and a presentation of the network “ASTERS” in the French Alps.