The current rate of climate change will see Germany’s groundwater levels drop ‘significantly’ by 2100

Even developed countries are not immune to the effects of climate change, according to a new document which estimates that Germany will experience a significant drop in groundwater levels by the end of the century.

Wells are used to extract groundwater. Image via Pixabay.

The world our children will inherit will be very different from the one we know today. This line contains both a promise of hope, as science and know-how improve our lives, as well as a measure of sadness – processes like climate change will disrupt many things we take for granted today. .

One of those things is water. Groundwater levels in Germany will drop “significantly” by the end of the century if climate change is not taken into account. Such a scenario will put massive pressure on local water resources, threatening the country’s water and food security. The process is likely to occur in other parts of the world as well.

dry country

“Our scientific study exclusively covered direct climate impacts and changes. Anthropogenic factors, such as groundwater extraction, were not taken into account,” says Andreas Wunsch from the Institute for Applied Geosciences (AGW) at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, first author of the study.

Water is essential to life, from bacteria to animals, from the civilized to the wild. Groundwater is one of the most important sources of this liquid in many parts of the world, especially those that do not border a body of fresh water. Today, large parts of our communities depend heavily on this water for drinking, agriculture and hygiene.

Global warming will have a significant effect on the factors that affect the distribution of water around the world. Changes in precipitation patterns, in the onset and characteristics of different seasons, sea level, glacier distribution and average temperatures are among the most important of these factors. Scientists have previously warned that unless we move in a new direction and wean ourselves from our fossil fuel needs, we can expect to see changes to Earth’s freshwater cycle as well as water shortages in the future. Their warnings are already beginning to materialize in many parts of the world with droughts in urban areas and wild ecosystems.

New research has just indicated that countries in Europe will also face their share of water problems due to climate change.

The study, published by researchers from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), used AI to generate several prediction methods on the evolution groundwater resources in Germany throughout the 21st century under different climatic changes. scenarios.

The team used data on groundwater levels at various locations around the country, which they fed through a deep learning algorithm. The scenarios tested by the system were drawn from those defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and ranged from an increase in global average temperature of less than 2 degrees Celsius (the “low” scenario) and up to 5 degrees Celsius by 2100, the latter being the business as usual scenario and the likely outcome if no changes are made. A moderate scenario of an increase of 2.6 degrees Celsius by 2100 was also modelled. All of these temperature increases are relative to pre-industrial levels.

According to the results, all three scenarios will lead to some increase in the frequency and severity of droughts in the region, lead to lower groundwater levels and have an impact on the overall water availability in Germany. While the two more optimistic scenarios showed less intense changes in this regard, the team reports that the business as usual scenario resulted in a significant drop in groundwater levels in most places.

“The results of this prognosis are particularly relevant for the near future, as this scenario is closest to the current situation,” says co-author Dr. Tanja Liesch of the AGW.

“Future negative impacts will be particularly noticeable in North and East Germany, where corresponding developments have already started. Here, longer periods of low groundwater levels threaten to occur by the end of the century in particular,” adds Dr. Stefan Broda of the BGR.

Since the two lower scenarios showed much less severe changes in groundwater levels and water availability in Germany, the team is confident that a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would have an effect. important and positive on these resources in the future.

Groundwater levels indicate the depth (or elevation) at which geological structures become saturated with water. A low level corresponds to lower amounts of water available in an area, while a high level indicates the opposite. Falling groundwater levels mean that wells have to be dug deeper to extract water, which increases extraction costs and can render existing infrastructure useless. It can also have serious repercussions for crops and wild plants, as they could be cut off from the water they need to survive.

The article “Deep learning shows lower groundwater levels in Germany until 2100 due to climate change” was published in the journal Nature Communication.

Teresa H. Sadler