Germany carves out national water strategy to cope with increasing droughts
Clean Energy Wire
Germany's government together with researchers, water industry representatives and local authorities is working on a national water strategy aimed at coping with recurring droughts and heatwaves associated with global warming. The move comes in light of growing concerns over the future of Germany's water supply. "Our country luckily still is far away from a water emergency. I want this to remain the case even in times of climate change. That's why we need a national water strategy," environment minister Svenja Schulze said on the final day of a national water dialogue that was launched in 2018 and which will form the foundation of the country's long-term strategy scheduled for mid-2021. Schulze said a so-called "water hierarchy" that ranks priority areas for water use would be a core element of the strategy, which could help consumers to "prepare for a possible emergency early on”. She said a hierarchy and clear rules would be needed to avoid confusion and competition in case of severe water shortages.
Another important element would have to be ensuring that existing supplies remain unscathed from pollution through agriculture and other human activities, Schulze added. Dirk Messner, head of the German Environment Agency (UBA), said the challenges ahead would call for "profound changes" in the way water is being used in Germany that will require a thorough assessment of hydrologic cycles.
The German Association of Water and Energy Industries (BDEW) said it would be important to recognise that securing a stable water supply as well as an adequate wastewater disposal will remain a key task for public services across the country. "The high security and quality must remain affordable – even in areas where fewer and fewer people are living," the BDEW said.
Germany experienced two years of extreme drought and heat in 2018 and 2019 which, among other things, saw significant crop losses in agriculture, power plant curtailments, huge swathes of forest dying away and water levels in major rivers plunging below levels to allow inland navigation. The extreme weather events also had a huge impact on public perception regarding climate change threats for the country and are believed to have contributed greatly to the popularity of climate action protests.