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Status 2022
Water shortage

Germany is drying up

When it comes to water shortages, Cape Town in particular made headlines from 2015 on: The water crisis forced Cape Town’s mayor to pull out all the stops. She was forced to take measures such as banning people from washing their cars or watering their gar­dens. A special ‘water police’ was introduced to enforce the severe measures. Cape Town learned from this expe­ri­ence, modernizing its infra­structure and intro­ducing water treatment facilities. Above all, the people of Cape Town are also more economical nowadays when using water.

Prolonged droughts have also led to constraints on water usage in Europe over the past few years, for example in France. For a long time, it seemed as if water was not a problem in Germany – a grave misconception. “The amount of water Germany has lost over the past 20 years is enough to fill Lake Constance. That’s an immense amount of water,” says Prof. Jay Famiglietti, Executive Director of the Global Institute for Water Security. “The decline in water availability in Germany amounts to around 2.5 giga­tonnes or cubic kilometers per year. That makes it one of the regions with the greatest level of water loss in the world.

Percentage of water coming from groundwater


Around 74 percent of drinking water in Germany comes from groundwater. However, Germany has lost enough water in the past few years to fill Lake Constance, the third-largest lake in Central Europe.

How agriculture can help get the situation back under control

Huge amounts of water are needed in agri­culture, for example. The less it rains, the more water is needed. In order to improve water management, Deutsche Telekom has connected the agri­cultural well in Diepholz to the Internet of Things. The water clocks in the well now automati­cally send real-time water withdrawal readings to a central cloud platform. Farmers no longer have to go along to each individual well on their fields to take a manual reading and then pass on the information to the authorities – with all of the usual delays included.

By connecting these to the cloud, farmers and water authori­ties can access real-time data wherever they may be and therefore gain a more permanent view of the situation. This in turn enables them to act fast and make better decisions. But that’s just the first step in irrigating the fields more economically and efficiently.

How sensors in the ground help our farmers irrigate their fields more sustainably

In the future, smart sensors in the ground will be able to record the amount of water currently required by the crops. This will make it possible to give the crops precisely the amount of water they need to process the fertilizer applied in the best possible way. When the crops do not receive the correct amount of water, the negative impacts for the climate are threefold:

First of all, bumper harvests will dry up and be lost – a consequence seen in many places in the recent years of drought. Secondly, the fertilizer remains in the soil as it cannot be absorbed by the crops due to the lack of water. Bacteria then transform part of the fertilizer into laughing gas, which is harmful to the climate. Thirdly, the resources used to produce the fertilizer have then been wasted for no good reason.

How can I help

We can also do our bit to help every day by being more economical in our use of water when showering, gardening, or washing our cars. The biggest change we can make is to reduce our consumption of meat, however. Meat production requires much more water than is needed in the production of vegetables.


Next steps

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