In Germany, a sustainable water management project

Like France, Germany experienced the coldest April in 40 years in 2021. But data recorded by the German Meteorological Service (DWD) show that, as every April since 2009, it has been too dry. For three years there was not enough rain in many parts of the country; drought has devastated forests, agriculture, river traffic and energy production. DWD’s latest ten-year forecast calls for a temperature rise of half a degree to one degree Celsius above the 20-year average by 2025.

National Water Strategy: An Action Plan for the Next Three Decades

To address water scarcity linked to global warming, Environment Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD) presented on 8 June 2021 a draft “National Water Strategy” that intends to list ‘all the challenges to be taken by 2050 to ensure sustainable management. This initiative is exceptional, the Minister emphasizes, both in the history of German environmental policy and at the international level, because it is intended for the global, pioneering and inevitable.

The project of the Ministry of Environment (BMU) is based on the results of the “National Dialogue on Water”, which brought together industrialists, researchers, associations, provinces and local authorities, and then, a second number of citizens to put together stumbling blocks, improvement ideas and ways to solve reported problems.

Therefore, the “National Water Strategy” is presented as an action plan aimed at achieving a number of goals by 2050 and proposes various measures to achieve them gradually over the next decades.

Water, a resource that must be taken into account

As water is a specific resource, both food and economic factor, the project is based on the precautionary principle aimed at its protection and preservation, explains Svenja Schulze. Because it is a vital resource, for humans, as well as for animals and plants, it is not “goods like any other“, is it written in the project,”but a good which we have inherited, and which must be protected and treated with careIn addition, water supply is the responsibility of the public service.
Therefore, the strategy is part of the communal mission, and the three main goals set by the minister correspond to the same number of emergencies. Intends to ensure that, by 2050, a sufficient quantity of very good quality drinking water is available everywhere in Germany at an affordable price; to make groundwater, lakes, streams, rivers and streams cleaner; and that water management adapts to the effects of climate change and demographic change.

Four strategic priorities

Fifty concrete measures form the basis of the project, which corresponds to four types of priorities.

  • 1. First priority: prevent water shortages

The time of abundance is over, warns the minister, water will no longer be permanently available: “Overall, less water will be used and its use will need to be managed in a targeted manner“Recommended measure: establishment of tariffs”.intelligent“, adapted to the availability of water, local and temporary, water. Therefore, it could be cheaper when demand is weak. These smart tariffs were initially intended for private households, but could be applied to industry, because How water supply is also linked to use land, irrigation and drainage of agricultural land should also be inspected and measures taken to prevent erosion in case of rain or flood.

  • 2. Second priority: adapt the hydraulic infrastructure

This adaptation is presented as a long-term project and actually amounts to “plan for the next hundred years“Because the entire hydraulic network – including canals, retention basins, waterways and embankments – will need to be adapted to climate change, and especially the extreme situations expected. Also take this into account, which is why the project envisages the construction of cities.”water sensitive“or”spongy cities“. These cities”green“will integrate”many impermeable areas for storage and use of rainwater, creating habitats for animals and plants and providing their own cooling“, so that we can cope with the strong heat and heavy rains.

  • 3. Third priority: cleaning of water bodies

Lack of data and knowledge about many substances that are present in trace amounts in water today, but in the past insufficiently discovered and potentially dangerous for all living beings – in addition to pharmaceutical products or medicines. Pesticides, these are plastic particles, nutrients and germs – however, it is a major obstacle. In order to minimize this type of contamination, it is desirable to prevent it, instead of filtering hazardous substances at the end of the process. This is why the BMU advocates a regulation that makes producers responsible for water pollution at a supranational level and therefore wants action plan “zero pollution” European Union be implemented by 2050. Under the “polluter pays” principle, companies will certainly have to put their hand in the wallet by increasing wastewater taxes and helping fund cell treatment.
The BMU, for its part, wants to establish two national databases, the first to monitor the effects of the above-mentioned hazardous substances and the second for nitrates. It also encourages the development of methods for assessing the impact of plastics in water on humans and the environment.
This surveillance system will also play a leading role in the prevention of pandemics, as sequencing of wastewater will allow the detection of viruses or pathogens, dangerous to the health of all, at an early stage.

  • 4. Fourth priority: implement this long-term strategy

The urgency is such that the BMU frees up a billion-euro budget over ten years to rebuild water bodies and adapt to climate change. Because the first need is indeed to restore the aquatic ecosystem, restoring river fluidity, especially removing barriers harmful to migratory species, shading water masses to protect them from warming, and recovering or creating natural reservoirs as a preventive measure against drought.
Currently, this strategy exists only on paper and must move not only to the implementation phase, but above all to obtain the approval of the government and states in the Bundestag. This long-term work will be part of a joint effort, involving countries, local authorities (because water supply is the responsibility of municipalities), industrialists and all groups involved in the “National Water Dialogue”. The first evaluation is planned for six years at the latest, and the action program will be able to be adapted and supplemented if necessary.

Even if they accept it, environmental organizations have no illusions about this project, because in their eyes the situation can be improved only by a real change of course in terms of agricultural policy. ON Currently, a third of the German water level is polluted by nitrates and pesticides from intensive agriculture. The state is therefore still far from meeting with Water Framework Directive Of the European Union, requiring that the waters be in good chemical and environmental condition by 2027 at the latest. This commendable program is coming at the very end of the mandate, how do you know if it will be implemented?

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