Which country has the best water

By 2015, the heads of government from around the world agreed eight years ago in New York, the number of people who do not have access to potable water should be halved. Two years later, the United Nations' "Millennium Goals" were supplemented by an equally important requirement at the environmental conference: the number of those who do not have a hygienic sewage disposal system is to double in this period.

One is directly related to the other: where there are no minimum sanitary standards, i.e. where the excreta run off uncleared, pathogens end up in many ways in the ground and surface water that the residents drink and with which they clean their laundry and cooking utensils. According to estimates by the International Water Institute in Stockholm, five thousand children die every day from diarrhea. This is also the focus of the World Water Week, which started this Monday in the Swedish capital. Around 2.6 billion people currently do not have adequate sanitary facilities. It is very doubtful whether the Millennium Development Goals can even be achieved. As far as authorities or private companies in the emerging and developing countries build a drinking water network, the second pillar is often neglected: the rehabilitation of ailing sewer pipes.

Europeans' luxury problem

When it comes to the supply of mankind's most important foodstuff, most Europeans (still) have luxury problems in comparison. Climate change and agriculture, which is extremely dependent on irrigation, repeatedly lead to supply bottlenecks, especially in the south. In some regions, groundwater supplies are also running low and deeper and deeper layers have to be tapped. That has its price; The nationwide network of sewage treatment plants, which has noticeably reduced the pollution of water bodies in Germany, is causing high costs. The fact that the districts and municipalities in East Germany were often forced to have oversized systems after reunification is another matter.

According to a study by the international consulting firm NUS Consulting, Germany has the highest water prices worldwide - an average of 1.91 euros per cubic meter. Belgium (1.85 euros), Great Britain (1.50) and France (1.27) follow in the next places. Canada, South Africa and the USA charge the lowest fees according to this analysis. The finding that the price increase in Germany has remained at a very low level for years is positive.

The informative value of such comparisons is limited, however, as the Federal Environment Agency and the Federal Association of the German Gas and Water Management (BGW) have pointed out in the past. In Germany, water prices cover all costs, which is aimed at at EU level, but not mandatory. In France, customers are not billed for many services, equipment and supply networks. Other nations also subsidize drinking water: Italy with up to 70 percent, Ireland even up to 100 percent of the expenditure. In Great Britain, only a small part of consumption in households is measured, the majority is billed at a flat rate.

Suitable for baby food

It is correct that the predominantly municipal waterworks in Germany use this income to finance other areas of general interest, i.e. operate what is known as cross-subsidization. On the other hand, there is a comparatively high quality of the drinking water. With considerable investments, the very high levels of nitrate and pesticides in the region have been reduced. If one disregards the recently discovered occasional excesses of the uranium guide value, lead-containing pipes are currently still causing the greatest problems in northern and eastern Germany. However, drinking water is subject to stricter quality controls than normal mineral and table water and is - in Munich, for example - suitable in some places for the preparation of baby food.

The water losses through leaking pipes are also only of moderate importance in Germany at nine percent. In England and Wales, almost a third of the water seeps away on its way, in France and Italy it doesn't look much better. This is important because it sometimes completely interrupts the supply.