The effects of the drought are becoming visible to us in a dramatic way: waterless lakes, declining river levels and dried-up fields characterize the landscapes of Europe. Regions in Austria are also struggling with prolonged drought. After all, the Alps ensure the supply of drinking water, even if consumption skyrockets on hot days. But how much water does each of us use? And can we divert our drinking water to needy drought areas?
The drama takes its course: in England water is already being rationed. Citizens are no longer allowed to water their lawns, fill their swimming pools or wash their cars. ‘Waskers’ risk heavy fines. In Austria, too, individual communities called for voluntary water conservation due to the drought. All in all, the water in this country still flows through the taps without any worries. Is this privilege jeopardized and are we being too careless with the blue gold?
Groundwater basins with historic lows
Yes and no, scientists say: “In Austria we are lucky because of the topography. The Alps are a water reservoir, clouds build up on the mountains, which promotes precipitation,” explains Josef Eitzinger of the Institute of Meteorology and Climatology at BOKU Vienna, why there are hardly any bottlenecks in this country. transported from the Lower Austro-Styrian Alps to the federal capital, there is no risk of shortages.
Across Austria, about half of drinking water comes from wells and the other half from household groundwater, some of which have historically low water levels. “Of course, water is a finite natural resource, as we are remembered in many European regions. In Austria we are relatively privileged.”
Water can be redistributed regionally
But can Austria, blessed with drinking water, help regions where water is scarce? “Technically it would be possible, but transport over long distances through pipelines would be far too expensive and also hygienically problematic,” answers BOKU drinking water expert Roman Neunteufel with a clear no. Regional redistribution is only possible in the area. Careful handling of “our” water is important, however: “If we use less water, more of it stays in nature and that helps us not to overexploit the resources,” complains Eitzinger.
Daily consumption increases enormously on hot days
Long periods of drought and the many warm days not only result in more evaporation, but also in consumption skyrocketing: “While we use 120 liters per capita on winter days, water consumption in summer rises to 150 liters per capita. liters per day. Most of this relates to outdoor use, so basically garden irrigation and swimming pools.”
As a sensible immediate measure, Neunteufel recommends purchasing a rain barrel: “Thunderstorms that drain quickly can be caught and used for watering.” Like so many people in Europe, the BOKU researchers hope for a long rainy season in the autumn and winter: “It should rain a lot for at least half a year so that the groundwater basins can recover.”