Water and climate change

Gardeners in a nursery for mangroves. The trees are planted to prevent soil erosion due to flooding.

Melting glaciers, rising sea levels, dwindling freshwater resources, more extreme weather events such as droughts, heavy rainfall, flooding and cyclones: climate change manifests itself in many ways, almost always through too much or too little water.

This is a challenge, especially for agricultural production and, as a consequence, for food security. But that is not all, low water levels are also a problem with regard to supplying cooling water for power plant cooling systems and for transformation processes in hydroelectric generators.

Adaptation to climate change

A house in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. Heavy monsoon flooding has driven thousands from their homes.

Since climate change has such a direct impact on water resources, the water sector is one of the main focus areas of development cooperation efforts aimed at supporting climate change adaptation. Many developing countries are especially affected by the impacts of climate change. At the same time, these countries often do not have the financial and institutional resources they need in order to adapt to climate change. That is why Germany is committed to helping its partner countries become more resilient to climate change.

Adaptation measures include efforts to reduce water losses in water supply and sanitation, building flood-proof disposal systems and treatment plants, urban drainage, developing early-warning systems, reusing treated wastewater in agriculture, artificial groundwater recharge and creating natural and artificial reservoirs that offer drought and flood protection, for example wetlands and water retention systems.

Developing information and analysis systems, for instance hydrological and meteorological observation networks, and water use plans helps optimise the use of water resources and build reserves in the context of climate change and disaster preparedness.

Mitigating greenhouse gas emissions

An employee of a Jordanian sewage treatment plant studying a technical drawing

Since water supply and wastewater treatment systems require significant amounts of energy – and its generation produces greenhouse gas emissions – they are also drivers of climate change. Moreover, in many developing countries and emerging economies, deficiencies in supply infrastructure cause high water and energy losses.

German development cooperation projects in the water sector use different approaches all aimed at making a contribution to climate protection. Energy-efficient pumping systems are used to help save energy, for instance. Measures are taken to reduce water losses caused by technical deficiencies along the route from the source to the consumer. This helps save energy and also (in the case of fossil fuels) reduces carbon dioxide emissions.

Waste water treatment and the disposal of sewage sludge generate considerable amounts of harmful greenhouse gases such as methane and laughing gas. That is why Germany is supporting the construction of new wastewater treatment plants that use energy-efficient methods and use these greenhouse gases as a source of energy or burn them off.

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