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Desertification Indicator System for Mediterranean Europe

1. Definition



Brief definition

The indicator measures change in the difference between the water availability pro capita and the water consumption pro capita during the past 10 years.

Unit of measure

Cubic metres per year

2. Position within the logical framework DPSIR

Type of Indicator


3. Target and political pertinence


The indicator provides a measure of change in water scarcity, depending both on increased consumption and/or decrease in the supply.

Importance with respect to desertification

It is important to monitor how the change in water scarcity is crucial in the arid and semi-arid regions, where the water cycle is discontinuous. As a result, maybe for much of the year, in the desertification sensitive areas there can be a deficit between the locally available water and the consumption needs. This deficit is growing as consumption increases, while available resources do not increase.

International Conventions and agreements

A part the UNCCD, Article 130 of the Treaty on the European Union (Maastricht, 1992) calls for prudent and rational utilisation of natural resources. UN GEMS/Water introduces a Global Environment Monitoring System for water. UN EMINWA calls for an environmentally-sound management of inland waters. Action plan Mar del Plata (1977) calls for sustainable use of water resources (UN Water Conference). The Declaration of New Delhi calls for provision of drinking water for all. IAP/WASAD gives the FAO International Action Plan for Water use in relation with Sustainable Agricultural Development.

Agenda 21 in many of its chapters, in particular Chapter 12 and 18, calls for policies and actions to improve the management and use of water resources.

Secondary objectives of the indicator

This indicator represents a fundamental indicator to help regional and national decision- makers promote more sustainable water resource management and use.

4. Methodological description and basic definitions

Definitions and basic concepts

Scarcity, by definition implies diminishing resources and/or a pressure on the supply of available resources from an increasing demand.

Not all the water resources are accessible and exploitable, due to economic, technical and environmental constraints. Therefore, to define the water availability per capita the available water supply is calculated as the volume of water available for public water supply from surface and groundwater sources, expressed in cubic metres per year per capita.

The water consumption per capita is the total demand for drinking water, process water, irrigation water and cooling water by all economic sectors, expressed in cubic metres per year per capita.

Benchmarks Indication of the values/ranges of value

With regard to water availability, the WHO (World Health Organisation) use the level of 1,000-2,000 cubic meters per person and per year to designate danger of water-stress. When the figures drop below 1,000 cubic meters per person per year nations are considered to experience water scarcity, which means that lack of water becomes a severe constraint on food production, economic development, and protection of natural systems. Today, 26 countries, supporting 232 million people, belong to this group.

Methods of measurement

This indicator is computed by calculating the difference between the water availability per capita and water consumption per capita for each year during the past 10 years.

Limits of the indicator

Due to the large variety of forms of renewable water resources and their uses, data collection is difficult. Comparability of national data is limited due to the lack of standardized methodologies.

Linkages with other indicators

The indicator is linked with other indicators relating to water and economy such as Water consumption by sector, Value added by sector.

5. Evaluation of data needs and availability

Data required to calculate the indicator

Water available supply per capita and water consumption per capita during the last 10 years.

Data sources

National data and estimates on renewable resources are available from national statistical offices and country publications for many countries. At local level the data can be obtained from Basin Authorities.

Availability of data from national and international sources

See section: Limits of the indicator.

Apart from national statistical agencies, the data at national level are also available from Eurostat, FAO and OECD.

6. Institutions that have participated in developing the indicator

Main institutions responsible


Other contributing organizations

Universities of Basilicata, Lisbon, Murcia, Athens.

7. Additional information


www.ec.gc.ca/scip-pidd/english/indicatorInfo.cfm? Indicatorname=20: Sustainable Community Indicators: Index and Indicators.


http://cwhweb.mcmaster.ca/cwsoe/documents/APP2.htm : List of measures and Indicators used in Municipal SoERs.

www.oecd.org/env/efficiency; Indicator sheets/ Interaction between consumption and the environment; ENV/EPOCSE(98)2/FINAL.

Other references


www.sustainableliving.org/appen-d.htm : Indicators o sustainable development 1996 - Background Paper.

Contacts Name and address

University of Basilicata
Prof Giovanni Quaranta
email: quaranta@unibas.it