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Berlin Environmental Atlas

02.11 Water Conservation Districts and Groundwater Use (Edition 1992)

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Groundwater Recharge

The goal of water management is to maintain a balanced groundwater economy. That means only so much groundwater should be removed as can be recharged. If removals exceed recharge, the groundwater reservoir will gradually empty; the groundwater level sinks. The West Berlin water level sank strongly in 1950-1975, due to large removal amounts of the Berlin Public Water Companies, private sector water supply plants, and groundwater retention at construction sites. The groundwater level has been rising since the mid-70's (cf. Map 02.07). This is caused by smaller removals of groundwater by private sector water supply plants, and by smaller groundwater removals as well as groundwater returns at construction sites. The Public Water Companies had also established groundwater recharge plants in order to increase groundwater. Groundwater recharge plants in Spandau and Jungfernheide injected 53 million m³ of prepared surface water for seepage in 1990.

Besides "true" and manmade recharged groundwater, a considerable portion of water withdrawn by the Public Water Companies comes from bank filtered water. Wells in the vicinity of surface waters produce cones of depression, and water from the bank areas of the Havel, Dahme and Spree flow into them. The proportion of bank filtered water in the total withdrawal amount of each well gallery depends on the distance of the well from the surface waters. An average of 50% of the removals of the Berlin Public Water Companies has been assumed. Figure 6 depicts the origin of waters used by the public water supply, as well as a division of its uses. Water consumption from public water supplies (purified water including lake water) per inhabitant in West Berlin was 233 liters/day in 1990 (1991: 229 l/d). In East Berlin it was 318 l/d (1991: 254 l/d). The average for all Berlin was 268 l/d. Water consumption of Berlin households totaled 213 million m³, and per inhabitant was 172 l/d.

Figure 6
Fig. 6: Origin and Use of Water from Public Drinking Water Supplies in Berlin 1989/90 in million m³ per year ( according to AHU 1991)

Increased sealing of soil surfaces and Berlin's rising population necessitate more water conservation and new methods of recharging groundwater both to maintain groundwater balance, and avoid use of drinking water supplies from distant areas. One procedure striven for as a solution to this problem is the use of former sewage farms for the return of purified surface water, or the best purified water from sewage treatment plants. The groundwater recharge rate could also be raised by returning rainwater to seepage. Rainwater that would otherwise flow into the canalization could be separately collected and either directly discharged onto non-built-up surfaces, or discharged into artificial ponds to infiltrate the ground and percolate into groundwater. In this sense, measures to 'de-seal' surfaces would also contribute to an increased groundwater recharge.

In 1990, an ordinance providing for a groundwater withdrawal fee was adopted in the Berlin Water Law (§ 13a, Para. 1). This was intended as an economic incentive to promote thrifty groundwater use. This was intended as an economic incentive to promote thrifty groundwater use. It allows Berlin to charge users a fee for the removal of groundwater, for the purpose of a more sparing use of groundwater. The resulting income should be applied to the protection of the quantity and quality of existing groundwater, particularly to ward off threats to groundwater, and to ameliorate damages.

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