III - Water And The Environment

Water And The Environment

Physical disasters

Too much water can be disastrous; however, so can be too little. A warning signal for  climate change and inadequate ways of dealing with nature, high water disasters and floods can be horrific. Droughts too have been on the rise in past decades due to more humans settling in dry areas. These droughts are incurred by development in dry, so far unused areas utilizing artificial, unsustainable irrigation. Learn about all the various aspects of high water on the Interactive Computer Model: emergence of floods, causes, their ecological significance; high water: past and present, ways and limitations of precautionary measures, flood-disaster control, global climate, and high water.

Climate Change

In the past 100 years, the average temperature of the earth's atmosphere has risen by 0.74°C. 90% of the warming effect is brought about by humans and is due to an increased emission of so-called greenhouse gases, which primarily stem from the burning of fossil fuels such as oil and coal. By 2100, the average temperature in Germany is likely to climb by another 2-3°C. Everyone of us can contribute to the slowing down of climate change by:

• using environmentally-friendly means of transportation: train instead of airplane, bus instead of car. For closer distances riding your bicycle is the best alternative.

• Switching to utility companies which prefer renewable-energy sources (for e.g. wind, solar).

• Conserving heating energy through better insulation and planning new passive energy buildings.
• Switching to energy-efficient household appliances.

• Purchasing regional products since short distance transportation saves fuel.

Water And Industry

Only 11% of the annual 32 billion cubic meters of water taken from ground and surface waters will go into private households. Nearly three times (30%) of the amount is needed for industrial production. The largest part (59%), however, is utilized for electricity production and water cooling in energy plants. About half (50%) of industrial water goes into chemical production. Relatively big water consumers are still found in the mining, metal producing, -processing as well as paper and printing industries.
A rise in environmental awareness has resulted in the reduction of water consumption.
This holds true for private households as well as power plants and the manufacturing industry. In a single industrial circulation, water is recycled several times in a row before flowing back into a body of water in a clean state. So, water use has dropped by 30% in the past 20 years. Only 40% of the amount of energy won by a power plant is converted into electricity. 60% will be excess heat a large part of which will let into rivers, because all large power plants utilize river water for their cooling systems. To meet Germany's power demand, every person takes roughly 630 liters of cooling water per day, which is equivalent to five bathtubs of 125 liters. Frequently, chemicals are added to cooling water in order to reduce the amount of corrosion in the heat exchanger, and to keep micro-organisms from multiplying too much. Cooling water, when released into rivers, is not only warmer than before but also frequently contaminated with chemical residues.

Agriculture and Water

Conventional agriculture is a large factor with respect to ground and surface water pollution. What is desired for the fields will harm streams, rivers and seas. Too much  of fertilizers flush excessive amounts of nutrients into the water cycle, causing lasting damage to entire ecosystems, including inshore waters. An examplary cooperation between water suppliers and conventional farmers, the network, “Drüber & Drunter“(“Over & Under“), has formed a competent counseling network, which strongly supports   exchange of experiences among farmers. After more than 15 years, the mutually beneficial project has achieved an impressive success record, with nitrate levels in ground waters having decreased by 50%. Eco farming does not only yield flavorful, healthy products it also saves ground and surface waters from problematic pollution by stopping potential issues around water from the beginning. Directives for ecological agriculture were established by the EU- Eco-Regulation:
• No plant protection products with chemical or synthetic substances
• No mineral fertilizers
• Animal farming has to meet the need of species
• Size requirements for livestock living spaces
• Ban of genetically engineered products