Water resources management

Women fetching water at a cistern in the city of Thula, Yemen

In order to ensure that future generations, too, will still have safe drinking water, water resources need to be managed sustainably. Water abstraction should not exceed the natural replenishment volume. However, high water consumption is not the only threat to water resources. Fertilizers and pesticides, industrial waste such as heavy metals and carbon or faecal contamination caused by poor wastewater treatment put pressure on this already scarce resource.

Non-renewable groundwater resources that are not replenished through rainfall or seepage need special protection. They should be preserved as strategic reserves to supply drinking water in the event of an emergency, such as a humanitarian disaster.

Water budget

Germany is supporting the efforts of its partner countries to balance their water budgets. Projects in this area involve continuous monitoring of water cycles and water quality. Information on wells, rivers and lakes is collected in data banks and evaluated. Special computer systems help water authorities to identify and resolve water-related problems early on.

Simulations can be carried out to assess, for example, the effect of unchanged versus increasing water abstraction on water resources. It is possible to study in how far measures such as changing crop rotation have an effect on water consumption in agriculture. Or whether it makes sense to use special techniques to mobilise additional water. This includes for instance harvesting rain water, reusing wastewater or water storage techniques.

Another important aspect is making sure that all wells are registered. Issuing licences for wells is a good way to control water abstraction, prevent illegal drilling of wells and ensure that new wells are well planned.

Safe drinking water

Taking water samples at a public well in N'Djamena in Chad

Drinking water needs to meet the highest quality standards. That is why areas in close proximity to wells, sources or reservoirs need special protection. By designating areas as water conservation areas, land use in these areas can be restricted. These protected areas need to be taken into account in infrastructure planning at the city, regional or national levels. Sewage plants, landfill sites, cemeteries or industrial plants should always be located outside of water conservation areas.

Excessive salinity can also reduce water quality. If, for example, too much water is pumped from wells close to the coast, this can have a vacuum effect where sea water is sucked inland to replace the groundwater that has been abstracted. A similar effect occurs in arid areas when high levels of water are abstracted.

The only way to prevent this problem is through integrated management and strict regulation of water resources.

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