Germany is a country known for its abundant water resources. Cool water was taken for granted due to its constant availability. In recent years, the situation has changed. In the wake of increasingly dry summers, some municipalities are already facing increased water shortages.
Causes of water shortages
A key factor in the current water shortage is the decline in groundwater levels. Groundwater is an important resource for drinking water supplies, agriculture and industry. It feeds rivers and lakes and affects the entire ecosystem. The causes of the decline are many and complex. One important aspect is the increasing water consumption in times of economic growth and persistent dry periods. Intensive agriculture, hydropower generation, and sealing of land for development also contribute to the reduction of groundwater levels.
Another problem is insufficient precipitation. In recent years, large parts of Germany have been hit by prolonged dry spells. However, regular and sufficient precipitation is crucial to replenish groundwater and maintain water supplies in rivers and lakes. Climate change and changing weather patterns contribute to this low rainfall.
Consequences of water scarcity: why saving water is important
The consequences of water scarcity are manifold and affect different sectors. Farmers suffer from crop failures as irrigation options are limited and many crops wither. Drinking water supplies face challenges, as waterworks must provide sufficient quantities of clean drinking water. The ecological condition of many bodies of water is also at risk, as lower water levels affect habitats for fish and other aquatic life.
Conscious use of water at the individual level helps reduce water consumption. Promoting more efficient irrigation methods in agriculture and adjusting irrigation schedules to meet crop needs are important steps to optimize water demand. In addition, prudent land-use planning is needed to limit land use and reduce soil sealing. Increased use of renewable energies can also help reduce water consumption in energy production. But each and every individual can also help to save water in everyday life through conscious use.
How much water do we consume?Average water consumption per household in Germany varies depending on household size and lifestyle. In 2022, the German Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) calculated an average per capita consumption of 128 liters per day. Annual consumption per person is thus 46720 liters. Calculated in bathtubs, based on a filling volume of 150 liters, this comes to 311 bathtubs full of water.
How is water consumption per household distributed in Germany?
According to surveys conducted by the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW), water consumption per household is distributed as follows:
- Drinking and cooking: Drinking and food preparation account for around 4% of water consumption. This share is comparatively low, since consumption for these purposes usually requires relatively little water.
- Washing dishes: Approximately 6% of water consumption is used for washing dishes, whether by hand or in a dishwasher.
- Cleaning, car care, gardening: Approximately 6% of water use is used for cleaning and gardening, such as mopping floors, cleaning surfaces, or watering plants.
- Small business: This 9% share of potable water use does not refer to private households, but to small businesses such as bakeries, butcher stores or artz practices.
- Laundry: Approximately 12% of water consumption is used for washing clothes. Water consumption here is highly dependent on the type of washing machine and the frequency of washing.
- Personal hygiene: Approximately 36% of water consumption falls into the personal care category. This includes not only showering and bathing, but also hand washing, shaving, facial cleansing and tooth brushing.
- Toilet flushing: At 27%, toilet flushing accounts for the second largest share of water consumption in the household.
Daily water consumption varies from person to person. For example, some people shower three times a day, while others wash three machines of laundry. Those who are a bit more rustic when it comes to personal hygiene save the splashing in the shower for bathing on Sunday, and thus naturally consume significantly less water. Nevertheless, the figures provide a good overview of the typical uses and the relative importance of water consumption in an average household in Germany.
Groundwater covers almost two-thirds of our water needs. Declining groundwater levels mean that resources for meeting daily water consumption are also becoming scarcer. Conscious use of water is playing an increasingly crucial role in reducing water consumption and promoting sustainable use of this valuable resource. Small changes in behavior and the use of water-saving technologies can help optimize water consumption in households and contribute to the protection of water resources.
Consciously saving water with the dry composting toilet
We all go to the toilet. On average, we flush the toilet 4 to 7 times a day to do our small business, and 1 to 2 times a day to do our big business.
Old toilet flushes in Germany, which were widely used before the introduction of water-saving technologies, sometimes consume a considerable amount of water. Most of these older flushes are called "high-flush cisterns" and usually use between 9 and 12 liters of water per flush. Some older models even bring it up to 14 liters per flush.
A standard toilet flush typically uses 6 to 9 liters per flush. This type of flush is called a "cistern flush," where water flows directly from the cistern into the toilet bowl, flushing away wastewater. Older toilet flushes use up to 14 liters per flush.
So-called "economy toilets" or "low-flush cisterns" help save water. These use less water per flush and consume only about 3 to 4.5 liters. Some models have a dual-flush function that lets you choose between a low and a higher volume of water, depending on your needs, to further reduce water consumption.
Dry composting toilets, on the other hand, function without a drop of water at all. Instead of flushing, liquid waste is separated from solid waste and disposed of separately.
How the composting toilet works
A composting toilet, like a conventional toilet, consists of a body together with a toilet seat and lid. Below the seat is the heart of the toilet, the so-called separation insert. This has two recesses. The front one is deeper and directs the urine into a separate canister below the insert, while the rear one is larger and wider and ensures that the large business falls into a container following gravity.
The container is previously lined with a garbage bag. In this way, the leftovers can be disposed of quite easily and hygienically. To prevent the formation of odors, the big business is covered with litter after going to the toilet. Special separating toilet litter with activated carbon, sawdust, fine bark mulch, small animal litter and much more are suitable for this. You can find an overview of the different variants in our article about litter.
Disposal is just as easy as using the toilet. The garbage bag with the solids is knotted tightly and - analogous to dog waste bags - disposed of in the residual waste. The urine can be disposed of in any toilet connected to the sewage system or diluted and used as a high-quality fertilizer. Detailed information on function, cleaning and handling as well as tips and tricks can be found in our big composting toilet guide.
Composting toilets are available in different sizes and designs. In addition to compact models for the tent and the car, there are numerous variants that are comparable to a conventional toilet in terms of height and seating comfort. The variety of materials varies from pure plastic or wooden versions to individual material mixes.
So much water saving is possible with a composting toilet
If we meet in the golden mean in terms of meetings and assume an average of 6 toilet trips per day, you save with a composting toilet
- Approx. 72 liters with an old flush toilet
- Approx. 50 liters with a standard flush
- Approx. 24 liters with an economy toilet.
Saving water sustainably in Germany: Efficient ways to use water consciously
There are numerous ways to use water more efficiently in everyday life without sacrificing convenience. Here are some particularly effective ways you can actively contribute to saving water:
- Water-saving faucets: Installing water-efficient faucets and showerheads can significantly reduce water consumption. Using flow restrictors throttles the flow of water without sacrificing user comfort.
- Modern toilet flushes: Switching to modern cisterns that use less water can be one of the most effective measures. Economy toilets or low-flush cisterns use less water per flush and often offer an optional dual-flush feature.
- Conscious showering behavior: Taking short showers instead of full baths can significantly reduce water use. By using a bucket and bowl, excess water can be collected and reused for other purposes, such as watering plants.
- Water-saving washing machines: When buying a new washing machine, models with low water consumption should be preferred. In addition, it makes sense to fill the washing machine completely to optimize water consumption per load.
- Rainwater harvesting: Installing a rainwater harvesting system allows rainwater to be used for watering the garden or flushing the toilet, resulting in significant savings of potable water.
- Drip irrigation systems: In the garden, efficient irrigation systems such as drip irrigation or irrigation timers can help deliver water to plants in a targeted, on-demand manner.
- Repairing leaks: Leaks and leaks in water pipes should be repaired immediately, as they can lead to significant water loss.
- Conscious use in everyday life: Simple habits such as turning off the faucet when brushing teeth or soaping up in the shower can also reduce water consumption.
By combining several measures, every household can make a valuable contribution to saving water. It is important that awareness of the importance of sustainable water use continues to grow. Individual efforts as well as societal measures contribute to the promotion of resource-conserving water management. Only by acting together can we protect the valuable resource of water and preserve it for future generations.