The water levels are falling in Switzerland . But how scarce is the water really? The federal government and the cantons have no overview – and no emergency plan.
There were already extreme temperatures in Switzerland in 2003, 2015, 2018 and 2019.
As a result, the water levels in rivers, lakes and groundwater dropped.
Another heat wave is now making blue gold a rare commodity again.
In municipalities from Mendrisio TI to Courtételle JU it is already forbidden to water the lawn, fill the pool or wash the car.
One canton after another bans farmers from pumping water from the rivers – abrupt reactions to local shortages, hectic and uncoordinated.
Every community has to see for itself where it stays. And each canton muddles for itself.
But how bad is it really? How much water do Swiss households and the economy need? What quantities are available? Will there be enough water until autumn? And if not, are there contingency plans?
SonntagsBlick asked the federal government and the cantons.
Result: Switzerland controls its water supply blindly. “We cannot answer these questions,” says various officials.
“We don’t have any numbers for that.”
Not a single canton knows how high its average water consumption is in the dry months, how much water is available in each case and what the current situation is in concrete terms.
Switzerland : A federal mess
That’s why no canton can say how tight it will really be this year.
And because this information is not available, the federal government also has no overview of the situation in the country.
In Bern, one office refers to the other – and all together back to the cantons and municipalities.
As early as 2018, Central Councilor Beat Rieder (59) called for a report from the federal government on the Swiss water supply, and in 2020 Green Councilor Maya Graf (60) followed suit.
But the state government obviously found this unnecessary and took its time.
The report only appeared in May 2022: it cautiously hints that the information on the Swiss water supply is not the best.
The local water management is a federal mess, as the survey by Sunday Blick shows. Nobody knows what’s going on.
That doesn’t surprise Beat Rieder and Maya Graf.
“The official carelessness should not least have to do with the image of the eternally bubbling Swiss moated castle,” says Graf.
“Although there has always been seasonal local water shortages, hardly anyone expected that this could become a problem across Switzerland.”
Now a rethinking must take place: “Water shortage is a risk for the whole country.”
Especially since consumption is increasing: households, industry, agriculture, tourism, energy suppliers – everyone wants more.
“It’s an explosive mixture,” says Rieder.
This makes the question all the more important: Who will still get how much water if the water levels continue to fall? “There are no rationing plans,” the cantons say.
And the federal government refers to an ordinance from 2020 to ensure the drinking water supply – which emphasizes that the cantons and municipalities have to take care of it.
Recommendations are not enough