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Austria

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Water-Related Challenge Costs

Total annual estimated cost to address all water-related challenges: $908,533,297.00

Share of total annual estimated cost to address each individual challenge (2015 $USD):

  • Access to Drinking Water: $47,220,702.00 - [5%]
  • Access to Sanitation: $63,625,906.00 - [7%]
  • Industrial Pollution: $593,861,691.00 - [65%]
  • Agricultural Pollution: $41,450,421.00 - [5%]
  • Water Scarcity: $10,952,359.00 - [1%]
  • Water Management: $151,422,216.00 - [17%]

Water Challenges

As reported by organizations on the Hub.

No challenges found.

Country Overview

1.1.1.WATER RESOURCES The annual precipitation average is 1,170mm, which corresponds to a precipitation volume of some 100 billion m3 per annum. About 55 billion m3 of this rain water runs off into water bodies, whereas 45 billion m3 simply evaporates into the atmosphere. The above figures determine the hydrological balance for the period 1961 to 1990. The Danube is a major economic, geographical and cultural force in Austria. Draining over 96 per cent of the country’s territory, the basin is home to 7.7 million people. In a country dominated by the Alps, the flat lands provided by the rivers are of huge significance for agriculture, human settlements and infrastructure. The Austrian territory accounts for 10 per cent of the total area of the Danube Basin. The Danube has its source near Donaueschingen in southwestern Germany and flows through Austria before emptying into the Black Sea. It is the only major European river that flows eastwards, and its importance as an inland waterway was enhanced by the completion in 1992 of the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal in Bavaria, which connects the Rhine and Main rivers with the Danube and makes barge traffic from the North Sea to the Black Sea possible. The major rivers north of the watershed of the Austrian Alps (the Inn in Tyrol, the Salzach in Salzburg, and the Enns in Styria and Upper Austria) are direct tributaries of the Danube and flow north into the Danube valley, whereas the rivers south of the watershed in central and eastern Austria (the Gail and Drau rivers in Carinthia and the Mürz and Mur rivers in Styria) flow south into the drainage system of the Drau, which eventually empties into the Danube in Serbia. Consequently, central and eastern Austria are geographically oriented away from the watershed of the Alps: the provinces of Upper Austria and Lower Austria toward the Danube and the provinces of Carinthia and Styria toward the Drau. Essential water reserves are found in the karst terranes of Northern and Southern Kalkalpen. About one quarter of the total precipitation falls in this area, which covers 20 per cent of the national territory of Austria. About 15 per cent of the federal territory is covered by the alternately permeable tertiary rock formations of the pre-Alpine region. The remaining 20 per cent of the national territory is covered with Pleistocene and Holocene sediments, found in the pre-Alpine region and in the valleys and basins of the Alps with, in some areas, enormous pore water resources.

1.1.2.WATER USE About 84 billion m3 of water are available to Austria per year. Austria’s total annual water demand amounts to 2.6 billion m³, which is equal to approximately 3 per cent of the renewable quantity of water. More than two thirds thereof is accounted for by for industry, 35 per cent is required for drinking water, and 5 per cent is needed in agriculture. However, apart from these direct abstractions, water is also utilized in many other ways, for example as a source of energy: 65 per cent of the demand for electricity is covered by hydroelectric power plants. Water has also become an indispensable factor in tourism. On average, every Austrian consumes about 150L of water daily (not including trade, industry, or large-scale consumers). If we take into account companies as well, this quantity rises to 260L/day. These figures have remained about the same for many years. The use of water-saving production processes and technologies, the increased recycling of used industrial water, and the consistent elimination of water losses in the water piping system and in households have led to the decoupling of economic growth and water consumption. Industry is Austria’s largest consumer of water. It accounts for almost two thirds of the entire demand for water (including cooling water). The most recent survey of water consumption by the industry was conducted in 1994 within the framework of the Austrian Industriestatistik (Industrial Statistics). The sector with the highest share in the total consumption of water is the iron and steel industry (41.5 per cent of the total consumption), followed by the chemical industry (28.5 per cent), the paper industry (15.6 per cent) and the food industry (3.6 per cent). In agriculture, about 50 per cent of the required water is needed for watering and 50 per cent for animal husbandry.

1.2.WATER QUALITY, ECOSYSTEMS AND HUMAN HEALTH Austria’s major environmental problems include the forest degradation caused by air and soil pollution; the soil pollution results from the use of agricultural chemicals, and the air pollution from emissions by coal- and oil-fired power stations and industrial plants and from trucks transiting Austria between northern and southern Europe. The water quality of Austria’s water bodies is for the most part very good. Measures taken to remove the organic and chemical pollutants from industrial and municipal sources have generally been successful. Investments in wastewater purification have thus been worthwhile. Hazardous substances have been detected only very rarely. As regards organic pollution and nutrient pollution, about 80 per cent of the water network studied complies with the criteria for ‘good’ status. Less favourable is the situation of the river structure (hydromorphological situation). For approximately 56 per cent of the assessed network of running waters, assessment indicates that Country Overview - Austria ‘good’ status has not been achieved. Similar figures have been determined in many other European countries. In most cases, these problems have a historical cause, namely the utilization of water power and protection against flooding, as well as the establishment of agricultural production areas. Studies were conducted of intensively built-up waters to determine whether the restoration of the good ecological status could have negative impacts on existing utilizations. These waters include 44 per cent of the running-water stretches that were examined. They were provisionally identified as ‘artificial or heavily modified’ waters. To such stretches of water, lower quality requirements will apply.

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Organizations in Austria


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Projects in Austria


Reconnecting floodplains to restore ecosystem services and re-establish biodiversity, this project focuses on restoring the cut-off floodplains to the Danube for the benefit of people, habitats and species. The project focuses on improving knowledge on habitat locations and conditions, helping … Learn More

Suggested Resources

View the full list of 300+ resources at the Water Stewardship Toolbox

With special attention to resources for utilities, this page lists relevant guidance around water and COVID-19. Learn More

Developers: American Water Works Association

This page seeks to help water sector professionals keep informed on the attributions of the COVID-19 virus and any measures needed to protect both workers and public health, in general. Learn More

In this Nature feature, Johan Rockstrom and co-authors argue that identifying and quantifying planetary boundaries that must not be transgressed could help prevent human activities from causing unacceptable environmental change. Learn More

Inform and strengthen your company’s water management strategies and allow your investors to evaluate current water management activities against detailed definitions of leading practice. Learn More

Developers: Ceres

This report presents analysis of the response data from a sample of 783 of the world’s largest publicly listed companies. The report is aimed at companies and investors seeking to understand how they can play their part in delivering a … Learn More

The Toolbox connects your business to the latest tools, guidance, case studies, datasets, and more most relevant to you based on your circumstances and interests. It features more than 250+ resources from dozens of organizations and is updated every week. Learn More

Developers: CEO Water Mandate, Pacific Institute

Includes Immediate steps, ongoing health measures that can be taken, and responsible business practice Learn More

Based on the major combat guidelines set by the São Paulo State Government, Sabesp is fully engaged to endure COVID-19 pandemic within its operation area, which means 374 municipalities located throughout São Paulo state and home to about 28 million … Learn More

Developers: Sabesp

Checklist for restoring water quality in buildings left unused for a long duration. Learn More

Developers: EPA Office of Wastewater Management

Best practices- Resources- Webinars on WASH/COVID-19 topics. Learn More

The Global Water Footprint Assessment Standard can be used to provide comparable quantification and robust analytics, helping corporations, governments, and researchers manage water resources and achieve greater water sustainability. Learn More

The Committee designed this document to guide the food industry and advise its sponsoring agencies in the implementation of HACCP systems. Learn More

Adapting to climate change, coupled with the need to address aging infrastructure, population growth, and degraded ecosystems, requires significant investment in natural and built water systems. These investments present a significant opportunity to support not only water, but to provide … Learn More

Developers: Pacific Institute

To help our partners in responding to this health crisis in their countries, we have compiled different resources and tools around COVID-19 and WASH, which include documents, videos, social media materials with messages on public health, webinar recordings, etc. Learn More

How to ensure the safety of staff and maintaining water quality in buildings with little or no use. Learn More

With private enterprises playing a critical role in contributing to the safety of their staff, it is important to change some of their core operations. This guide is meant as a stepping point to begin reopening with safety as a … Learn More

How to ensure the safety of staff and maintaining water quality in buildings with little or no use. Learn More

The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Compass Business Tools inventory maps existing business tools against the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It allows you to explore commonly used business tools that may be useful when assessing your organization’s impact on the SDGs. Learn More

This report explores the possibilities of scaling a circular economy, given the reality of the global economy and the complexity of multi-tier supply chains. Learn More

Developers: World Economic Forum

ILO Sectoral Policies and Governance and Tripartism Departments present four self-training modules, which adapt existing ILO training tools on OSH to provide governments, workers and employers with the necessary skills to implement the general principles contained in relevant ILO instruments. … Learn More

Companies are increasingly setting and pursing ‘water balance targets’ as part of their water stewardship strategies. The seeming simplicity of balance goals can be attractive – “we will restore a volume of water equal to the amount our business consumes.” … Learn More

Developers: WWF

The Water Risk Filter can be used to assess and respond to water related risks for your own operations, suppliers, or growth plans. Learn More

Developers: WWF

Safely managed water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services are an essential part of preventing and protecting human health during infectious disease outbreaks, including the current COVID-19 pandemic. Learn More

WBCSD Learn More

Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) Learn More

CTCN; UNEP Learn More

CEO Water Mandate; Water Witness International; WaterAid; WBCSD Learn More

WBCSD Learn More

UNEP Learn More

IPIECA Learn More

Ceres Learn More

Ecolab Learn More

PRI; WWF Learn More

CEO Water Mandate; Pegasys; Water Witness International; WWF Learn More

The World Bank Learn More

UNEP-DHI Learn More

WBCSD Learn More

UN Water Learn More

OECD Learn More

UNICEF; WHO Learn More

River Threat Netwrok Learn More

CEO Water Mandate; WWF Learn More

Swedish Textile Water Initiative Learn More

Alliance for Water Stewardship Learn More

WaterAid Learn More

CEO Water Mandate Learn More

CEO Water Mandate Learn More

McKinsey Learn More

Toilet Board Coalition Learn More

Conservation International Learn More

U.S. General Services Administration Learn More

National Drought Mitigation Center Learn More

UNEP Learn More

USGS Learn More

UN Water Learn More

AT&T; EDF; Global Environmental Management Institute (GEMI) Learn More

OECD Learn More

SAI Platform Learn More

Lillian Holmes
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