"Public water supply always comes first"

By Christian BlockLex Kleren Switch to German for original article

Qualitatively in need of improvement, quantitatively under increasing pressure: Groundwater reserves are still sufficient to be used for private and industrial purposes in addition to drinking water supply. However, monitoring this resource is becoming an increasingly urgent task.

Summer 2022. France is experiencing the worst drought ever recorded in the country. Drinking water supplies collapse in 100 municipalities. The government sets up a crisis team. At the end of August, 79 "départements" are still in crisis mode. Water may now only be used for priority purposes (civil defence, health, drinking water).

Things were not quite as bad in Luxembourg. Nevertheless, the government prohibited the extraction of surface water in this country as well – even if a permit had been issued for this purpose. Some streams were completely dry for the first time in August. The drinking water supply was maintained. But whether this will continue in the future is not certain. The official strategy for adapting to climate change, for example, assumes that the consequences of climate change, such as heavy rainfall events, floods or drought, could endanger the security of drinking water supplies.

What is perhaps less well known is that of a total of around 760 groundwater wells in the country, private owners account for slightly less than half. These are primarily private companies such as breweries or food companies (66 per cent) and farmers (32 per cent), who use it to fill cattle watering troughs, for example. The remaining two per cent are springs, wells and boreholes belonging to private citizens who use them to water their gardens or houses that are not connected to the drinking water network. A distinguishing feature from other countries: "We have – for the moment – no consumption of groundwater in agriculture", says the director of the Water Management Administration (AGE), Jean-Paul Lickes, referring to irrigation of classic crops. Nevertheless, in a dry year like this one, fruit farmers, for example, certainly had to resort to their wells to keep apple trees alive.

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