“Sprinkling the lawn or a swimming pool are no longer universally acceptable”

Page 7 of this letter from the Senate Department for the Environment summarizes in a few sentences how life in Berlin could change in the near future. It says literally: “It is fundamental to use the resource consciously and carefully and not to waste it.”

The resource is the water that comes out of the tap and flows into this city’s bathtubs, watering cans and swimming pools. According to the letter, the population can implement “simple measures” immediately. In official German: “Promoting the economical use of water in the state of Berlin is an essential building block for the future-proof design of the water management framework.”

It is the answer to a written question from Green MP Benedikt Lux to the Senate Administration this week. In it he first asked how often the Spree flows backwards. This happens when there is less water in the source than in the destination. The simple answer to this question is: 211 times between the years 2010 and 2020. This means that the water balance in the city of Berlin is increasingly disturbed. But Benedikt Lux also wanted to know from the Senate administration what measures are being taken to ensure that Berlin continues to have enough water available.

“The times when Berlin had a lot of groundwater are over,” he tells the Berliner Zeitung. “In the worst case, there is a risk of a water crisis in a few years.” That’s why Berliners have to do more for water cycles and save water. “We should try as long as possible to supply Berlin with our own water and not import any outside water.” This requires billions of euros in investments by the water companies in new waterworks and in more sewage treatment plants with the fourth purification stage.

The master plan is formulated too vaguely for some

In its reply, the Senate referred to the “Water Master Plan” and a number of measures that had already been initiated. Abandoned waterworks locations are to be reactivated, the Berlin forests are to be converted to mixed forests and rainwater is to be managed decentrally. In addition, soils are to be unsealed so that the water can seep back into the ground. As a last resort, the Senate is also examining the possibility of supplying the city with long-distance water.

Christian Schweer from the Berlin water network initiative thinks the water master plan is basically a good thing, but it doesn’t go far enough. “Basically, something is demanded that has long since been defined by the European Union in the Water Framework Directive.” The master plan is even less specific because the goals are formulated quite vaguely. But it is a step in the right direction. “Not enough has happened in the past,” says Schweer. “Actually, action must be taken this year.”

This is exactly what Benedikt Lux is talking about, who therefore wants to go to the area around Berlin with a delegation on June 29 to take a look at the water consumption on site. In addition, he also sees a lot of potential in the possible unsealing of the floors in Berlin. “Rain that seeps away over concrete deserts in the gully or evaporates quickly is a waste of water that we can no longer afford,” he says. “That’s why we want to keep the water in local cycles, in a sponge city.”

So much more land would have to be unsealed, forests would have to be converted into mixed forests or green roofs would have to be planted. “For these projects, my group was able to allocate more than 30 million euros in the budget deliberations.” This is also important for species protection and the urban climate. “It is important that we now start to implement it.”

Create awareness of your own water consumption

In Schweer’s water network initiative, committed people from Nabu, the BUND and the Natural History Museum meet. Its goal is to promote the careful and sustainable use of water resources in the public and in politics. Not surprisingly, 74 percent of water consumption occurs in private households. The initiative has therefore also called for an action plan that goes further than the master plan that is currently under discussion.

“Berliners have to understand that lawn sprinkling or a full swimming pool are no longer generally acceptable,” says Christian Schweer. “We also have to ask ourselves where our energy comes from and whether the energy I use uses a lot of water to generate it.” Coal-fired power plants use a lot of water. And the fact that Berlin, for example, does not charge a fee for surface water, is also something that Schweer does not think is up-to-date. But citizens should also start with themselves: “You don’t have to live like an ascetic, but you should be aware of how much water is used.”

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