Extreme weather conditions affect the quality of drinking water

The official climate report writes that climate change is turning plants into mountain climbers - the warmer it gets in higher elevations, the more the plants migrate upwards. We humans can only do this to a limited extent and therefore have to adapt to the conditions in our living spaces. Habitats with extreme weather - heavy rain events, frost, lack of precipitation, heat, storms, the list can be expanded almost at will. To take a look at the effects on water resources and their quality at the point of extraction is only consistent and logical.

Austria is a water-rich country and we only use around 3% of the available water. The resources are therefore sufficiently available, also in the future. However, 60% of the population is not aware that water is a perishable good (1).

If extreme weather events occur, water resources and water quality are also affected and require a high degree of flexibility from all institutions involved (public water supply and disposal, flood management, etc.). Since there are limits to the precautionary measures here, for example: Heavy rain events often lead to floods very quickly and contaminated surface water can penetrate the drinking water system. On the other hand, drought and extreme temperatures are just as risky. Desiccation means that entire regions have to be supplied with water and that poorly flushed pipe systems are susceptible to the formation of germ reservoirs (so-called biofilms) and the corrosion of the pipe material may accelerate. The storage of water tanks is also made extremely difficult by high temperatures. The logistical effort increases - the water quality decreases.

Fortunately, Austria is excellently managed in this regard and all auxiliary services, supply and disposal companies repair damage very quickly and sustainably. This means that the publicly managed and supplied part is well equipped for these types of damage. However, in the private sector, in the event of a disaster, one often only thinks of the building structure and forgets that any damage can also affect the water supply systems in the house:

Health-threatening contamination can occur here via taps and other extraction points - regardless of whether you are supplied via a domestic well or via the public water supply. Since your own four walls are within your own responsibility, the public can only issue a warning. Assessment of damage and repeated checks of the drinking water quality are, however, your own responsibility. “In the public sector, drinking water is the most controlled food. The question is how often one checks in the household whether one's own pipes and thus the water quality are OK. A regular self-inspection of the water quality is therefore advisable ”my DI Stephan Bruck from AQA. and Bruck adds: "We have been carrying out water analyzes in households for more than 15 years and these results show that the water in every 10th publicly supplied household is contaminated with germs and in the case of domestic wells, every second one is affected by disproportionate germs . “It is therefore worthwhile to protect your own health with increased attention in this regard, as the effects described above can be intensified by increasingly complex house installations or they support the germination.

"If you know about your own water quality, you can reduce or prevent a lot of negative effects by adapting the usage behavior and ongoing maintenance, but only if you know them", says DI Stephan Bruck on the daily use of drinking water.


(1) Representative survey forum water hygiene