Cabinet decides on strategy: Germany prepares for water emergencies

Cabinet decides strategy
Germany is preparing for water emergencies

Because of climate change, Germany has to be more careful with water as a resource. With the national water strategy, the cabinet is making advances: if there are bottlenecks, the paper regulates the priority for drinking water. Agriculture and industry in particular have to adapt accordingly.

The federal government is taking precautions in the event that drinking water in Germany could become scarce regionally due to climate change. The federal cabinet passed a national water strategy developed by the Federal Environment Ministry, which is intended to ensure that by 2050 there will be “high-quality, affordable drinking water everywhere and at all times,” as the ministry announced. The strategy also includes the development of nationwide guidelines for action in cases of regional water shortages.

This guideline is intended to support the responsible authorities in deciding who should have priority use of water in the event of a shortage. “If a problematic situation actually arises, drinking water would have priority,” said Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke on NDR. According to the ministry, work on this crisis guideline has already begun, but is not yet complete. The federal, state and local interest groups are involved.

The strategy also pursues other goals: keeping water and groundwater clean, strengthening a near-natural water balance and organizing waste water disposal according to the polluter-pays principle. For the first time, it brings together measures in agriculture and industry, administration and transport, urban development and nature conservation. Agriculture will have to be prepared to at least adapt its irrigation systems to the climate crisis – this also means “that everything that is irrigated today may not be irrigated at all times,” Minister Lemke told NDR.

The ministry emphasized that the drinking water supply in Germany is currently secured. “But the effects of the climate crisis are also changing the availability of drinking water in the long term,” the ministry said in a statement. “The last summer of drought had serious effects on our forests, agriculture and biodiversity in Germany. Conversely, almost two years ago, water masses in the Ahr Valley and in North Rhine-Westphalia caused a flood disaster.” Such extremes threatened “to become a new normal as a result of the climate crisis”.

According to Lemke’s ministry, 78 measures have already been put together in an initial action program that are to be implemented step by step in the years up to 2030. In the implementation of the national water strategy, “the first visible successes should already be achieved in the current legislative period”. With the action program, “the federal government is taking on itself and all the actors involved to ensure that water is used sustainably by 2050,” the ministry said.

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