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Global Economy

"An Increasing Threat"

Michael Roos is a councilor in a small community near Würzburg in Bavaria. He is standing in a dry fish pond. He says that fish a meter long used to swim here. Now you can only see the dry and cracked ground. In many places, the increasing drought cannot be seen, a tree may die – but with this pond "it's really noticeable," says Roos. From his point of view, the authorities should control much more precisely how much groundwater is extracted from the soil by wells in the region.

Tankers have to bring water

Water always seemed to be in abundance in Germany. But is that still the case? In a joint project with the ARD political magazine report Munich, the magazine "Kommunal" surveyed thousands of municipalities and their special-purpose associations throughout Germany: Have you already experienced real water shortages and did you have to take measures? 1,480 mayors and employees of special-purpose associations submitted answers, some of them dramatic.

"Some communities have to be supplied with water tankers," writes an employee of a special-purpose association from Thuringia. From a small town in Lower Saxony it is said that "the water level in deep wells has fallen continuously by a total of three to four meters in the last ten years". A municipal employee from a municipality in Brandenburg puts it in a nutshell: "The water shortage is an increasing threat".

It is the largest current picture of the mood that has been recorded among municipalities so far. A total of 57 percent of the municipalities identified water scarcity; Measures against it – such as banning pools, car washing or garden irrigation – have been taken by 16 percent.

Higher cost – to be paid by consumers

Municipalities and their utility companies will also have to adjust to higher costs in the long term due to climate change. The German Association of Gas and Water Experts (DVGW) asked its members about this last summer – nationwide more than 100 water suppliers answered. Result: In the past ten years, companies have spent 400 million euros on climate adaptation costs. For the next ten years they expect costs of 1.2 billion euros – three times as much.

They want to use the money to develop new sources of drinking water. Above all, however, it is a matter of better distributing the water; new pipes and elevated tanks are needed to store the water. "It all costs money. And ultimately, the consumers have to pay for these additional expenses," says Joachim Arnold, CEO of the Oberhessische Versorgungsbetriebe (OVAG).

So far mostly appeals to the citizens

The situation in eastern Germany is most dramatic. 67 percent of the municipalities surveyed see water shortages there, and 24 percent have already taken measures. And others are already thinking about how water can be saved. So far, it has mostly been a call to citizens – for example not to use tap water for washing cars. The region in the southeast of Berlin is particularly affected – the Strausberg-Erkner water association is responsible here. The so-called giga factory of the electric car manufacturer Tesla is also in his association area. CEO Elon Musk claimed in an interview with rbb that there is water everywhere here – it rains so much.

But the Strausberg-Erkner water association, which is responsible for the region, has actually reduced water consumption for new customers. You are only allowed to consume 105 liters of water per person per day. According to current data from the Federal Association of Energy and Water Management, two visits to the toilet, five minutes of showering and one washing machine would be too much – the water consumption would exceed the budget. Such restrictions are "a unique occurrence in Germany," criticizes Steffen Schorcht from the Grünheide citizens' initiative.

More on this on Tuesday, August 30th, 2022 from 9.45 p.m. at report Munich in the first and in the documentary: "The great drought. What to do so that Germany doesn't dry up?" in the ARD media library.

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