In view of the impending water problems, Berlin and Brandenburg are now examining the possibility of pumping water from the Baltic Sea to supply drinking water to the greater Berlin area. The two countries are commissioning a feasibility study this year, as Brandenburg’s Environment Minister Axel Vogel (Greens) said on Sunday. “The report is intended to clarify the conditions under which it can make ecological and economic sense to desalinate Baltic Sea water and transport it to the Berlin area.”
In Baden-Württemberg, for example, water from Lake Constance travels around 400 kilometers in pipelines to the north of the state. “Berlin is always dependent on additional water being brought in, since the new groundwater formation under its territory is not sufficient to supply the growing metropolis,” said Vogel. The report on the Baltic Sea water should be awarded this year.
The Salt Problem
“Drinking water from the Baltic Sea would be new territory and also associated with problems. Each desalination is associated with a high energy consumption. And of course, in the end, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania must also go along, after all, the Baltic Sea coast does not belong to either Brandenburg or Berlin,” says Vogel. “Due to falling groundwater levels, we will have water problems if we do nothing.”
He considers it difficult to channel water from the Elbe into the Spree or to tap into the German-Polish border river Oder for Berlin’s water supply. The Oder has low water in half of the year anyway, said the minister.
Coal phase-out indirectly leads to water shortages
According to a study by the Federal Environment Agency, there are major bottlenecks in the drinking water supply in the greater Berlin area and along the Spree. In the dry summer months, the river could locally carry up to 75 percent less water if less groundwater is pumped into the river when lignite mining ends. As a solution, the study proposes, among other things, upgrading dams and water reservoirs and expanding existing lakes as water reservoirs.
It is also recommended to cover the water deficits with water transfers from neighboring river areas such as the Elbe, Lausitzer Neisse and Oder. Most of the drinking water for Berlin is obtained as bank filtrate from the rivers Havel and Spree.
From Vogel’s point of view, the rainfall so far this summer and the winter before is not enough to make up for the groundwater deficit of the past five years. “The deficit is not balanced at all. It will continue to exist at the end of the year. This is of course a very threatening situation for the Brandenburg forests, especially in southern Brandenburg, where there are a particularly large number of extensive pine forests on dry sites,” said the minister. “A damp and mild winter would be good, especially for groundwater recharge, since falling groundwater levels are already causing problems.”