Climate Change and Water Supply - Consequences of Climate Change and Potential Adaptation Strategies - page 05


What can politicians, scientists and water suppliers do to adapt to the consequences of climate change?

There is no panacea and no one-size-fits-all solution for climate change adaptation. Regional differences of climate change impacts on water abstraction, treatment and distribution are huge. Impacts and vulnerabilities differ between catchments or even within a supply system. The need for adaptation and the scope for action are always predicated on the prevailing natural conditions, the technical structure of a supply system, interaction with other factors such as societal and economic development or the concurrent industrial and agricultural water uses. The adaptive latitude of a water supplier is also defined by general legal and political parameters. And ultimately, a lot depends on a utility’s willingness to actively address climate change issues and to rely on both its own and external know-how. In particular the uncertainties of projections and the knowledge about the increasing variability of climatic conditions need to be systematically analysed and considered in the management of resources as well as in the operation and design of supply infrastructures. In this context, all societal stakeholders need to be repeatedly made aware of the fact that the protection and sustainable management of water resources is an interdisciplinary task to which the water supply industry can contribute its share but which it can, by no means, accomplish on its own.

Against this backdrop, it deems necessary that policy-makers, scientists and water suppliers actively support the following framework conditions:

  • Granting priority to drinking water supply before and above all other uses of water resources within catchments
  • Securing drinking water supply through official spatial planning and water resources planning and approval procedures.
  • Procuring sufficient water rights to meet peak demands
  • Granting priority to public water supply in the case of uncertain power supply
  • Including water supply facilities into official flood protection programmes and schemes
  • Providing basic data from supra-regional (climate) models for regional (hydrological) models (e.g. groundwater models) for water resources management purposes
  • Limiting agricultural irrigation needs by developing drought-resistant crops and crop rotations and making their use mandatory
  • Optimising safety of water supply, i.a. through the development of integrated supply systems

The DVGW homepage provides a platform with information about climate change adaptation, about the activities pursued by the Federal and Länder governments, as well as about relevant research projects and plans related to water supply. Beyond this, it offers some examples that illustrate the practical work of water utilities: