Schulze: Germany needs a national water strategy

National water dialogue develops recommendations for the future of water in Germany

Fluss mit sehr wenig WasserClick to enlarge
Little precipitation due to climate change can result in regional and seasonal water scarcity

Niedrigwasser an der Elbe bei Dresden

Source: hecht7 /

After two years of intensive consultations, the Federal Environment Ministry has concluded the National Water Dialogue, which deals with the water management of the future. The virtual closing event will be attended today by Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze and numerous experts from water management, administration and research. The results of the dialogue are comprehensive recommendations for action on various topics. More than 200 experts explored how the Länder and local authorities can better deal with climate-induced water scarcity in the future and how Germany's natural water balance can be preserved and protected. The recommendations will now be incorporated into the national water strategy, which Federal Environment Minister Schulze intends to present next summer.

Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze said, "Fortunately, our country is still a long way from a water emergency. I want this to remain so in times of climate change, which is why Germany needs a national water strategy. One important element is the establishment of principles for prioritising water use, in other words a water hierarchy. This will help users to prepare for possible emergencies at an early stage. Of course, decisions on who has priority in the event of scarcity are ultimately always made at the local level, but they should be based on generally acknowledged rules of the game - also so that in the end there is no clash of different local interests, but rather as much cooperation as possible. Equally major challenges are the pollution of water bodies, maintaining the functionality of water ecosystems and securing services of general interest. The National Water Dialogue has analysed the current and foreseeable challenges more thoroughly than ever before. The results are a good basis for the first national water strategy, which we in the Federal Environment Ministry will develop starting today."

Dirk Messner, President of the German Environment Agency, said, "The recommendations for action of the National Water Dialogue reveal the different interests in dealing with water. The related challenges facing water management call for far-reaching processes of change - especially in the mission statements. The aim must be to ensure that only substances that do not pose a risk to humans and the environment enter or are discharged into water bodies. This requires a holistic view of the environmental influences of pollutants and a systemic consideration of the input paths within the context of a zero-pollutant strategy. Climate change and water do not stop at municipal boundaries. This is why we also need water supply and water demand analyses at catchment and river basin level soon."

Germany must prepare for longer periods of drought. The past summers have clearly shown this. Water scarcity is becoming a problem in more and more regions. At the same time, many waterbodies are suffering from high levels of nutrient and pollutant pollution. Future scenarios such as these were analysed in depth by the participants in the National Water Dialogue and strategic options for action identified for key areas of water management.

All in all, the National Water Dialogue provides an up-to-date inventory, formulates goals and identifies fields of action with proposals for concrete measures. The recommendations of the National Water Dialogue range from strategic approaches and new financing concepts for the modernisation of water management infrastructures to proposals for strengthening organisational and administrative structures. The aim is to strengthen the protection of water resources with binding planning instruments and a reduction in substance discharges. Last but not least, the experts will show how water and agriculture can jointly develop standards and plans for water-sensitive land use.

The National Water Dialogue was initiated in 2018 by the Federal Environment Ministry together with the German Environment Agency. More than 200 participants from water management, agriculture, research, associations, Länder and municipalities took part in the intensive expert dialogue over the course of two years. After a kick-off conference, the participants deepened their discussions in several individual forums on "Networked infrastructures", "Risk factor substance discharges", the relationship between agriculture and consumer protection", the nexus "Water development and nature conservation" and "Water and society". The National Water Dialogue is also Germany's contribution to the implementation of the UN Water Decade (2018-2028).

For more information and outcome of the national Water Dialogue go to

Umweltbundesamt Hauptsitz

Wörlitzer Platz 1
06844 Dessau-Roßlau

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