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National water policy needed to cope with global warming

Switzerland is known as the “water tower of Europe”, providing around 6% of the continent’s freshwater resources OM

Switzerland’s water sector is not properly equipped to deal with climate change, warns a government-backed study by the Swiss National Science Foundation. The report recommends developing a national water strategy.

This content was published on November 4, 2014 - 11:04
swissinfo.ch and agencies

According to the foundation, which presented the results on Tuesday, the sustainable management of water in Switzerland is increasingly about how to overcome conflicts of use and interest. A national water strategy is therefore needed to bring together all concerned parties. 

Climate change is expected to affect mainly high-mountain regions in Switzerland. Rising temperatures will in the long term lead to a 90% reduction in glaciers and lead to violent flooding, scientists warn.

Launched in 2008, the National Research Programme called “Sustainable Water Management” included 16 projects involving 150 researchers. The budget was CHF12 million ($12.5 million).

Coordination needed

Scientists say Swiss communities and cantons lack strategic priorities and proper coordination. When granting water concessions, mountain regions should be much more attentive to sustainability questions, they add.

Rolf Weingartner of the University of Bern led a project involving 11 communities in canton Valais.

“Socio-economic development has a greater influence on water management than climate change,” said Weingartner at a conference held in Bern on Tuesday to mark the research programme’s conclusion. He cited the demand for artificial snow and golf courses in addition to drinking water.

But if regional collaboration is improved, in future Switzerland will have sufficient water, the scientists believe.

“There should be enough water in 2050, but sewage and access issues need attention," Weingartner said.

Switzerland is known as the “water tower of Europe”, providing around 6% of the continent’s freshwater resources.

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