This week were two special days that we want to provide a platform for. And the best thing is, they complement each other perfectly for a blog post: the UN International Day of Forests and the UN World Water Day with this year's focus on "groundwater".
Life simply wouldn't be possible without groundwater. It is invisibly located underground in geological formations of rocks, sands and gravels that store significant amounts of water, called aquifers. Groundwater feeds springs, rivers, lakes and wetlands and seeps into the oceans. It is replenished primarily by rain and snowfall that infiltrate the ground and can be conveyed to the surface by pumps and wells for human benefit.
Forests are vital to the health of the planet and human well-being.
Encompassing nearly one-third of the Earth's land surface, they provide people with commodities such as wood, fuel, food, and feed.
Moreover, they improve air quality, provide shade, and cool the air through evaporative processes, and serve as recreational sites for the natural environment and humans. Countless species are to be found in the diverse habitats that a forest provides.
Worrying groundwater quality
According to EU Commission statistics, groundwater in Germany is in a particularly worrying state. The main reason for this is the nitrate pollution that has been increasing for years, triggered primarily by conventional agriculture; mass livestock farming, the spreading of liquid manure and nitrogenous fertilizers on fields pollute groundwater, surface waters and even parts of the Baltic Sea.
Hamburg's* drinking water reserves are running low
When you think of Hamburg, you think of the Elbe, the Alster, the Speicherstadt and the Hafencity with its numerous waterways - wherever you look, water. Unfortunately, the reality is different when it comes to groundwater and drinking water.
According to the status report on drinking water supply in Hamburg (07.2016), the ground or drinking water supply is just about guaranteed until 2035. In addition to particularly dry summers with more heat days, the deep wells are also at risk of salinization, something that has already occurred in large parts of northern Germany. In such a case, these areas are no longer suitable for drinking water production.
Various measures, such as promoting the infiltration of uncontaminated precipitation water, are intended to counteract the declining groundwater level.
A waterworks in the forest
Trees contribute to groundwater formation and, through their biological filtering effect, ensure that the quality of groundwater increases, and oxygen-rich, clean drinking water is produced. Groundwater generated by the forest soil increases the overall quality of drinking water, which is severely reduced due to the input of pollutants. Increased groundwater replenishment can help to counteract the negative impacts of pollutants in a compensatory manner.
Interestingly, deciduous trees contribute significantly more to groundwater recharge than conifers. Restructuring mono-coniferous forests into mixed forests thus increases groundwater and drinking water recharge. However, mixed forests have other advantages as well, because their higher level of biodiversity also makes them more resilient.
With the support of Klimapatenschaft Hamburg and Forst Klövensteen, we are also contributing to the sustainable management of local forest areas and groundwater recharge.
You can find out more about this project in the coming days on our social channels and on the following page:
*Hamburg is selected here merely as an example to show that these problems are taking place right on our doorstep. Similar or much more serious developments in groundwater quality and drinking water supply can be observed globally.