LJUBLJANA, Slovenia, March 27 (UPI) -- Slovenia, which has some of most abundant fresh water supplies in Europe, should develop new strategies to preserve and protect them, ministers said this week.
Slovenian President Borut Pahor, Foreign Minister Karel Erjavec, Agriculture and Environment Minister Dejan Zidan and European Commissioner for the Environment Janez Potocnik were among those making calls for better management of the country's water resources Monday at a Ljubljana conference.
Also present was climatologist Lucka Kajfez Bogataj, head of the Center for Agricultural Meteorology at the University of Ljubljana and a member of an international climate change panel that was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.
"The state does not invest enough in water management and the water profession, and its knowledge is fragmented, driven mainly by enthusiastic individuals," Kajfez Bogataj said.
She asserted Slovenia basically has no water management strategy, even though it is one of its most strategic resources and should be viewed as a basic human right, the Slovenian daily Delo reported.
"We have no vision and experience shows that to get what we want, it becomes necessary to create state policy," Kajfez Bogataj said. "Where is the Slovenian water partnership, bringing together academic experts, policy makers and civil society?"
Some 34 billion cubic meters of water flow through Slovenia's rivers and streams each year -- the total amount per capita for its population is nearly four times more than the European average. Its quality is also better than in other European countries but still more than half of Slovenia's surface water is considered by the European Union to be impaired by pollutants.
Officials say the country's total amount of treated wastewater has jumped by 32.6 percent since 2002.
Kajfez Bogataj pointed out that 7,000 Slovenian residents have no water in the house, 30,000 are supplied with rainwater and 150,000 get their water from uncontrolled local supplies, resulting in waste, inefficiency and pollution.
She called for an innovative approach to water management, bringing together technological, infrastructural and institutional elements, which could then be harnessed to promote Slovenia's abundant water supplies as a tourism draw.
Pahor, meanwhile, said water management and sustainable development expertise in the country is considerable and well-regarded abroad but policy efforts need to be strengthened.
"Slovenia can be a model state but it must have a clear vision of the future so that we will not be going around in circles," the president said.
Zidan revealed at the Water as an Opportunity for Sustainable Development and International Cooperation event the government is introducing amendments to the country's Water Act for debate that would seek more sustainable practices and better protect citizens' right to water.
He agreed that water isn't well regulated and called for a public debate in which the government, professionals and the residents work together to establish an effective system of water management.
Erjavec added that water, as a shrinking resource, also has many international aspects.
"We live in a country where there is abundant water, which is elemental and indispensable for human life, and which the world puts at the forefront of discussions of internal and external policies," he said.
Water, he said, is a geo-strategic factor "with the potential to create integration rather than political tensions. Slovenia has a wealth of knowledge and opportunities in this market, and there opportunities awaiting us, especially in the field of awareness."