Germany in the water revolution
Water is considered the No. 1 foodstuff and is at the same time the basis of all life – essential for our survival and for nature. Rivers, lakes and seas are habitats for numerous plants and animals. Water quenches our thirst and we use it for our hygiene. Lakes and seas are places for our recreation, rivers transport goods from one place to another and last but not least, water is an important factor for the economy in the production of goods.
But unfortunately, the majority of society does not yet seem to be sufficiently sensitised to the responsible use of water. Overall, it can be said that Germany is a water-rich country, but in some regions and in view of the consequences of climate change, water is becoming scarce. The past three years show: We have to deal with our water differently, otherwise we will soon get into “water stress”.
The path to a National Water Strategy
“Water is not a common commodity, but an inherited good that must be protected, defended and treated accordingly.”
Since 2018, more than 200 experts from water management, administration and research have been discussing in a forum how the country can better deal with climate-related water scarcity in the future. The National Water Strategy of the Federal Environment Ministry was presented at the 3rd National Water Forum on 8 June 2021. It provides answers as to how we can secure the water supply for us humans and for our environment in sufficient quantity and necessary quality in 2050.
Ten to twelve
The German water sector is facing new challenges: Climate change, demographic development and changing consumer behaviour are bringing about many changes that can no longer be managed by local measures alone. Heavy rainfall events, dry periods and flash floods are becoming more frequent. More than 1000 kilometres of flood protection measures have to be extended and rebuilt. Rivers must remain navigable, because due to climate change they are increasingly impassable. Added to this is the pollution of our waters by, among other things, veterinary medicines and pesticide residues. From the soil and surface waters, the active substances can also get into the groundwater, which is used to produce drinking water for us humans. Filtering them out has not been possible so far.
Something has to change
If we want to continue to use our water as usual, we inevitably have to change something about the way we use it. With the infiltration and evaporation of rainwater and the runoff of meltwater, there is an opportunity to enrich the groundwater. There are several examples where this approach has been successfully used to artificially increase the amount of drinking water. This procedure is used on a large scale, e.g. in the Hessian Ried. In the 1980s, a waterworks was built there that treats the river water taken from the middle of the Rhine and infiltrates it again to provide the waterworks in the southern Hessian region with a sufficient supply of groundwater.
Is rainwater harvesting the solution?
It would not be right to say that rainwater harvesting is the solution to all the challenges mentioned, but it is an important and right step for the future.
We have been working on rainwater harvesting for several years. We collect and treat it, cook our coffee and tea with it or use it to wash our hands. We also use rainwater in production to cool our machines. Using our Schwerin site as an example, we show that it is not necessary to have a connection to the water supplier, because we have been working here successfully without one for ten years now. With around 45 employees, we save a lot of drinking water and use what nature gives us instead.