23 Aug 2022, 13:34
Edgar Meza

German companies use 85% of their water to cool production and power plants

Clean Energy Wire

German companies use the vast majority of their entire water consumption for cooling, according to statistical office Destatis. Companies used a total of 15.3 billion cubic metres of fresh water in 2019. Of that amount, 84.7 percent – or or almost 13 billion cubic metres – were used solely for the cooling of production and power generation plants. Water used for production purposes accounted for 10.7 percent of the overall amount. The remaining share went to irrigation, especially in agriculture (2.5 percent) or was used in manufacturing (1.4 percent). Staff purposes, including sanitary facilities and canteens, accounted for a mere 0.6 percent. Companies sourced most of the water they used - 70.2 percent - directly from rivers, lakes or dams. Cooling water generally remains unpolluted and can therefore be returned untreated to nature, Destatis noted. "Its use in the cooling process heats up the water, which can lead to thermal pollution of water bodies." 

At the same time, cooling water makes up the largest proportion of all industrial wastewater. Groundwater accounted for 12.8 percent of water used by companies. Another 2.4 percent was obtained from bank filtrate (water that seeps into extraction systems through the banks of rivers or lakes and mixes with the existing groundwater); 1 percent from sea and brackish water; and 0.7 percent from enriched groundwater. Companies also received part of their water from other companies – an amount that reached 9.3 percent of total water used.

Germany has been working for several years on a national water strategy aimed at coping with recurring droughts and heatwaves associated with global warming.

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