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Station 1: The Importance of Water


The Importance of Water: a Prerequisite for Life on Earth

Life originated in water and it remains our most important provision. The human body is made up of around 60% water. Certain processes in the human body are not possible without water. Amongst these are the regulation of body temperature, and the transportation of nutrients through the blood. Deleterious health issues can result from the loss of only 10 % of our water reserves, with a loss of 20 % possibly life-threatening. However, it is not just the amount of water that we take into our bodies, but also the quality of the water itself. Drinking water must not contain toxins or dangerous germs.

Water and its Importance for Landscape

As it pertains to the development of landscape, water is a defining factor. Water is versatile in its capabilities. Besides its ability to burst forth through rock formations, it is also an agent of ground erosion, and cuts valleys and fills them in. The effects of water can bring advantages as well as disadvantages that are often well-hidden. For example a flood can cause distress and misery, but at the same time it can also make land fertile.

A great part of the German landscape was created during the ice age, essentially through glacial movement, through torrents of meltwater and post-glacial forming.  Even today, the landscape is undergoing constant change. Coastal regions and island landscapes, for example,  are faced with effects of climate change, such as the rising of the sea level.


Groundwater is the most important resource for nature and humankind. Many people operate under the misconception that groundwater is an inexhaustible underground water deposit. A quick look at the latest global figures concerning water deposits proves that this belief is undoubtedly false.

Fig.: Importance of Water

Altogether there are ca. 1.4 billion km³ of water on earth. From this vast sum 96.5 % is either saltwater or brackish water; this leaves only 3.5 % as freshwater. Breaking down this last figure, one can see that 69.6 % of this freshwater is locked up in glaciers and ice caps, 30 % occurs as groundwater deposits, and 0.1 % makes up soil moisture, ground ice in permafrost, sump water and a mere 0.3 % make up the water of lakes and streaming bodies of water. These figures make it clear that groundwater is exhaustible and valuable, and thus a resource that is worth protecting.

Groundwater can be described as underground contiguous water that pervades the hollow spaces of the earth’s crust (pores and chasms for example), and is placed under pressure. This pressure is either equal to or exceeds the atmospheric pressure, and the water’s motion is driven by gravity and frictional force.

According to the Water Management Act (WHG), these waters are regarded as “an integral part of the ecosystem, a basic prerequisite for human existence, a habitat for animals and plants, as well as a utilizable commodity that should be protected.” The second paragraph of the WHG explicitly refers to groundwater. Moreover, according to this document, the degradation of this available groundwater and its chemical state, are to be avoided at all costs [§ 47 Abs. 1 Nr. 1 WHG.].


Encroachment on Groundwater

Nevertheless, as a result of the increasing impervious sealing of city terrain, and the rising concentration of noxious substances in precipitation and its ensuing seepage, more intensive problems are starting to appear. Additionally, there is the problem of overstraining and overdrawing water (particularly in conurbations), and discrepancies between water resources and water use. Besides the prevailing need to deliver groundwater over long distances through extraction and distribution, there is also the intensification of competition for space amongst agricultural interest, traffic and transportation, and industry [Schmitt 2011, pp. 3-1].

In order to ensure the fair protection and maintenance of water deposits, appropriate measures must be taken to counteract the aforementioned problems. In particular, it would be prudent to reduce water usage and to secure water resources. The efficacy of wastewater treatment must be monitored and maintained, the sealing of municipal grounds must be limited, agricultural measures must be taken, and  water protection areas, as well as water curtains and reserves, must be identified and protected [Schmitt 2011, pp. 4-18].