Water resources take spotlight in Germany

The distribution of water in Germany could become a relevant issue for the first time in decades, the Federal Environment Agency has announced.

“More frequent dry summers also mean that more users are likely to fight over water as a resource,” which would require thinking about a just distribution and prioritization, said Joerg Rechenberg, water expert at the Federal Environment Agency.

“One thing is already clear, namely that agriculture will be added as a new user of water resources,” said Rechenberg.

According to Rechenberg, irrigation farming in Germany had only accounted for 2.7 percent of total water use until now but irrigation demand was expected to increase throughout Germany, varying by region UBA expert.

Drought and heat records have been increasing in Germany in recent years. Last June was the warmest summer since measurements began and almost 90 percent of Germany’s surface area was under drought, according to the German weather service (DWD).

The impacts of these weather extremes in Germany were not yet known, according to Rechenberh, but one effect would certainly show up, namely that droughts “would in any case have a negative impact on water availability”.

The potential for conflict over water resources was already a concern for German municipal water suppliers, who warned of growing competition from agriculture and industry.

“Farmers take some of the water for the fields from the groundwater,” Karsten Specht, vice-president of the German Association of Local Utilities (VKU), told the German press agency (dpa).

“The drinking water supply must have priority,” stressed Specht, who is also managing director of the water association for a region in Lower Saxony.

Specht noted there was currently no water shortage in Germany, nor were there any nationwide supply bottlenecks for drinking water. Nonetheless, more transparency in water distribution was needed.

Up-to-date data on Germany’s groundwater quantity for 2018 was not yet available, according to the German Environment Agency. The lack of rain, however, meant that groundwater levels had most likely not recovered.