Water remains scarce under Bavaria's soil

Water remains scarce under Bavaria’s soil

Sinking groundwater reservoirs in Bavaria

A woman walks through the courtyard garden and is reflected in a puddle. Photo: Sven Hoppe/dpa/archive image

© dpa-infocom GmbH

In Bavaria’s groundwater reservoirs, levels have been falling for decades. Rainfall like it has recently brought little relief – and climate change is exacerbating the problem.

Even if in some places the longer rain showers of the past week suggest otherwise: the groundwater reservoirs are only sparsely filled in many regions of Bavaria. According to the Bavarian State Office for the Environment (LfU) in Augsburg, low levels were recorded at 44 percent of the measuring points. Overall, the storage situation is lower than the long-term average.

This continues a trend that, according to the LfU, has been going on for almost 20 years: the increasing scarcity of groundwater. The storage situation has clearly deteriorated in recent years, says Peter Hirmer, chairman of the water working group at the Bavarian Nature Conservation Union. Heavy rainfall like in the past few days is of little importance: “Not everything that rains down ends up in the groundwater.” Large amounts of water seeped into the water layers more poorly than continuous irrigation.

The consequences of climate change, which lead to heavier downpours and less long-lasting precipitation, are therefore dangerous. In fact, only a small part of the rain reaches the depths, while a large part ends up in streams. Sealed, i.e. built-up areas and agriculture, in which water is drained from fields, are also problematic. Such arable land would in turn be artificially irrigated during hot periods.

Lothar Zimmermann from the Bavarian State Institute for Forestry and Forestry says: “It doesn’t help if it rains intensively for a few days.” Forest soil in particular can absorb a lot of water, which only seeps into deeper layers when it is oversaturated. Such a strong saturation is currently only reached in a few areas.

The statistics on groundwater recharge also show how the situation for the reservoirs is getting worse. According to the LfU, the amount of newly formed groundwater has been below the average for the years 1971 to 2000 for 20 years, with the exception of one year. Around 19 percent less groundwater was formed during this period.

Hirmer assumes that sooner or later the result will be water shortages – which not only has to do with the infiltrating water, but also the withdrawals, for example for agriculture, industry and drinking water. It is therefore crucial to use the scarce resource sparingly: “We will no longer be able to afford to waste it.”


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