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15 Jul 2020, 13:44
Benjamin Wehrmann

Germany must trigger 'paradigm shift' in water management to cope with droughts

Clean Energy Wire

The increasing risk of prolonged droughts in central Europe warrants a "paradigm shift" in Germany's water management in order to avoid supply bottlenecks, the German Federal Environmental Foundation (DBU) has warned. "The persistent drought in recent years makes it necessary to preserve water in the environment and give streams of flowing waters more space," said DBU secretary general Alexander Bonde. River regulation or the drainage of moorlands carried out extensively in the past decades have led to a situation in which rain and other water is flowing away quickly and leaves little for the soil to soak up. This puts strain on the water supply for citizens, agriculture and ecosystems during times of little precipitation, the DBU said. According to the foundation, about four percent of Germany's forests have been severely damaged by water scarcity since 2018. The DBU also said that the German energy transition's effect on water supply levels needs to be examined in greater detail, adding that the energy sector's water demand is projected to halve by 2050 due to the decommissioning of power plants requiring cooling water. "A quicker transformation of the energy sector would not only help the climate but also the water supply in rural areas," the DBU said.  

The prolonged droughts and extreme heatwaves recorded by Germany and many other European countries in 2018 and 2019 massively contributed to putting climate action at the centre of public debate. The German government has already earmarked hundreds of millions of euros to help struggling farmers cope with harvest losses and to adapt the country's forests to changing weather patterns, though researchers doubt that Germany's ecosystems will be able to avoid fundamental change due to climate change.

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