Watering the garden is already restricted in parts of Germany
Photo: Sebastian Gollnow/ dpa
Not only Germany is suffering from the heat of the past few weeks.
England reports the driest eight months from November to July since 1976. Last July was in parts of the country the driest since weather records began in 1836. The Environment Agency is warning of a drought in England if the weather stays this way.
Rivers in the country are already drying up, the source of the Thames has shifted eight kilometers downstream, as the Guardian reports.
In order to protect water supplies, the first waterworks issued so-called hosepipe bans: Citizens are forbidden from watering gardens, filling pools or even washing cars.
In Hampshire in the south of the country, among other places, the ban will apply from Friday afternoon.
The water utility South East Water even calls on its customers to blackmail neighbors if they are wasteful with water.
In England, the Water Industry Act 1991 empowers utilities to impose fines of up to £1000 on customers not complying with the ban.
A hotline has even been set up to report violations.
Does that also exist in Germany?
Rationing is also used in Germany.
In Brandenburg, for example, new customers of the Strausberg-Erkner water association are only allowed to consume 105 liters per person per day.
In the district of Potsdam Mittelmark there is even a general decree: Between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. no garden areas of private households may be watered with fountains.
But what do you mean by water shortage?
Bernd Kirschbaum from the Federal Environment Agency explained to SPIEGEL that the lack of water basically means low water levels in surface water, but also low groundwater levels.
This becomes problematic in the upper layers, the uppermost aquifer.
There is no water there to supply the roots of trees and plants.
»The consequence of long-lasting dryness and drought, if no groundwater recharge occurs, is that the water levels fall first in the rivers and, with a time lag, also in the groundwater.
The vegetation suffers as a result,” says Kirschbaum.
And not only plants are dependent on groundwater, but also rivers themselves. Because in our latitudes they are fed from it, says Kirschbaum.
The other way around, be it in more southern or drier countries: rivers in so-called arid zones with a dry climate went dry because the groundwater level is lower than that in the river.
What about our drinking water?
And groundwater is also of essential importance for our drinking water.
70 percent of the drinking water in this country is taken from the ground water, 30 percent comes from surface water.
However, it will not be dangerous for the drinking water supply.
At the depths at which water suppliers produce with their wells, there is sufficient water for the drinking water supply, says Kirschbaum.
However, there are regional differences.
In federal states such as Bavaria or Saxony, there are also private wells, so-called domestic wells, which are not that deep and are the first to experience problems.
There are peaks that cause problems for water suppliers, for example when people come home on a hot afternoon and start watering the garden.
The drinking water supply as such is usually secured, says Kirschbaum.
Nevertheless, there are plans if things get tight.
Last year, the Federal Environment Ministry published a draft for a national water strategy.
This should ensure that the quality of the drinking water remains high in 30 years, but there should also be prioritization in the event of shortages.
The draft is currently being discussed in the departments and states, according to the ministry, a cabinet decision is being sought for early 2023.