Water shortage: Switzerland is under pressure

I always thought that water in Switzerland was plentiful. But today, I saw this article:

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The situation has changed dramatically since that article was written.

Last summer we had a watering ban as the water table was quite low. With our wet autumn and winter, particularly the heavy snowfalls in November and subsequent melt in January and February, the situation has improved.

Yes it is something we need to keep an eye on and farming/industry still needs to reduce their consumption but it is no longer an emergency.

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Water is way too cheap. Everywhere.

Cost per person per year is around 100 CHF (assuming the 142l per day and cost of 2 CHF/m3). I know that parts of larger industry have strict water usage KPIs, but it has always amazed me that there is hardly any economic incentive to save. That is the case in most countries I know of.

It looks plentiful because there’s almost no river without dams. So, rivers are managed, there’s always water flowing. Natural conditions are a bit different, big floods and big droughts. If you look at history, water is not that plentiful. Article from University of Bern of winter droughts of last 450 years. So, the landscape looks green and lush because it’s carefully managed :slight_smile:

Rivers also look fine because glaciers are melting. At some point, no more glaciers and river flow will take a dive. Luckily, climate change will apparently bring increase of precipitation around here. One door closes and another one opens.

Back to the consequences of the 20th century: pollution. There’s plenty of water but a significant fraction is polluted. Today, lines are drawn around polluted aquifers and no water is extracted from
them. If there’s true scarcity on the future, we might be less finicky.

Finally, the 21st century. Temperatures are rising. Bacteria that is just sleeping in water 10°C, reproduces like crazy at 18°C. This is only an example to communicate, not hard numbers specific species of microbes. In several places around CH water is just piped to homes, no purification at all. Water will not be scarce, but it will have to be treated before being delivered to people.

If I had to bet on this, I wouldn’t talk about scarcity. But in the increased demand for purification before use.


The glaciers provide water all year. Without glaciers, there will be floods in Spring, then it will dry up and a more arid climate the higher you go.

And sometimes shortages in the low-lands, too.

Population growth (from immigrants…) doesn’t help either, of course.