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National water strategy: Svenja Schulze warns of water shortages in Germany

Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze wants to score points in the fight against water scarcity with a national water strategy. “For the future, it cannot be taken for granted that there is an abundance of water everywhere,” said the SPD politician of the Neue Berliner Redaktionsgesellschaft (NBR). A stronger balance between arid and water-rich regions is necessary. “With water, there is no problem of quantity, but of distribution.”

In the event of a scarcity, there could be prioritization of water access in the future. “For these emergencies you will have to talk about usage hierarchies and a balance of interests,” said the NBR minister. Personal drinking water needs are given priority. “Priority for essential economic and agricultural uses and ecological needs is also conceivable.”

Schulze wants to create incentives so that large amounts of water are used outside of peak consumption. “Pools are best filled at night, not during the day,” she said. “Smart water tariffs” could be a solution to react more flexibly to the respective demand.

Municipalities are already complaining about a mammoth task

In the water strategy of your ministry, which will be officially presented on Tuesday, Schulze pleads for a massive expansion of the water infrastructure. According to the plan, municipalities and water suppliers should cooperate more closely on a supraregional level and join forces in regional associations. “If individual regions get into difficulties, new or larger long-distance water pipes can be a solution,” said Schulze. New water reservoirs such as dams are also conceivable, provided they are “ecologically compatible”.

Schulze puts the costs, referring to information from the water management, at more than three billion euros per year. In the future, the federal states and the federal government are also responsible. “A large part of this will continue to be borne by water suppliers and municipalities in the future.”

The plans are met with skepticism at the Association of Municipal Enterprises (VKU). “Maintaining and replacing the current lines is a mammoth task,” said VKU Vice President Karsten Specht of the NBR. The VKU also insists that water supply is a municipal task. “Which solutions are required on site can only be assessed on site.”

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However, Schulze has long been thinking ahead. After the recently dry summers in many places, it also wants to increase the resistance to climate change and improve the state of water. For this purpose, 100 million euros are to be spent in each case over the next ten years, so a total of one billion euros.

Part of the strategy should also be to systematically monitor wastewater in the future in terms of preventive health care. This makes it possible to get trend statements on the development of a pandemic. Virus variants could be identified in samples as well as multi-resistant germs.

Schulze’s project still has to be coordinated in the government and with the federal states.

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