Water is the basis for all life and an indispensable resource. We rely on water for our food supply and our daily hygiene. Water serves as a habitat for many plant and animal species in the form of oceans, lakes, rivers or wetlands. And people need water for leisure activities. Water is also an important economic factor as an energy source, a means of transport and a raw material. Access to enough clean water is essential for our health and diet. This makes water one of our most important resources. And we need to make sure we protect it.
Access to water is a human right. To tackle the global challenges associated with guaranteeing this right, the UN Water Action Decade was proclaimed at the 66th General Assembly of the United Nations. The UN Water Action Decade started on 22 March 2018 and ends on 22 March 2028. It pursues two main goals:
- To improve educational outreach related to water and water pollution control, including information on the water-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
- To improve communication to achieve water-related goals.
The German government is also doing its part to support this initiative. In addition to the launch of a national dialogue on water held over a two-year period, it is also taking part in an international water dialogue on the sustainable management of water resources and water bodies. As part of this, the BMU launched the international Water Dialogues for Results, which will be held from February to July 2021 with UN member states from the global North and South and international Major Groups. In the framework of the UN Water Action Decade, a number of thematic and regional platforms for discussion are highlighting the value of water for different stakeholders and looking at the actions required for globally ensuring the human right to water. The Water Dialogues for Results will conclude with a high-level ministerial meeting in Bonn on 1 July 2021. The momentum generated by the UN Water Action Decade will thus be channelled into change in how water is handled internationally. The political messages elaborated in this process inform the German contribution to the 2023 UN Water Conference in Dushanbe, where an initial stocktake of the UN Water Action Decade will take place.
In Germany, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) deals with all aspects of water management and transboundary cooperation on water issues. The BMU has lead responsibility for the following federal acts: the Water Act, the Waste Water Charges Act, the Washing and Cleansing Agents Act, the Soil Protection Act and the Nature Conservation Act.
The BMU is currently advocating better protection of our groundwater against nitrate and pesticides input. The federal states and municipalities are responsible for implementing water regulations.
National implementation of the UN Water Action Decade focuses not only on strengthening water policies, but also on education, communication and raising public awareness of water issues. In October 2018, the BMU launched the National Dialogue on Water in the framework of the UN Water Action Decade. One of the goals of the Water Dialogue is to work with experts to find solutions to the pressing challenges of water management sooner rather than later.
World Water Day
Every year on 22 March we celebrate the UN’s World Water Day. In 2021, the motto is “Valuing Water” to highlight the importance and value of water globally.
People are urged to reflect on the vital importance of water and its value. This goes far beyond its financial value, encompassing environmental, social and cultural dimensions. The UN calls on people everywhere to inform themselves about the role and significance of water in our lives and for the environment.
The purpose of the UN World Water Day is to inform the public about the UN’s goals, its role and the challenges it faces in their implementation. The objective is to increase awareness for the water-related SDGs of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Logo UN Water Action Decade
f you would like to get involved in the spirit of the UN Water Decade or are already doing so and would like to use the logos for the United Nations Water Decade for your own projects of the Water Decade, please write to us.
You are also welcome to contact us if you have any questions or suggestions about campaigns or projects, such as the National Water Dialogue. Please use our contact form for this purpose.
Activities of the BMU in the context of the UN Water Action Decade
The road to the national water strategy
Water is the basis for all life. We must set the course today for more sustainable and adapted water use in the future given the challenges of climate change, demographic change, technological innovations and different changes in the water cycle caused by our lifestyles and interventions in water systems.
The Federal Environment Ministry’s national water strategy, which will be presented in summer 2021, aims to answer the question of how to guarantee the water supply for humans and the environment in sufficient quantity and the necessary quality by 2050. In light of the significance of this issue, we want the discussion on the national water strategy to be as broad as possible with input from different experts, user groups and private individuals.
Stakeholder dialogue completed
Over the last two years, the Federal Environment Ministry together with the Federal Environment Agency have conducted the national dialogue on water. More than 200 participants from water management, science, agriculture and research as well as associations, federal states and municipalities have talked about the goals, possible measures and major challenges for the future of water management in this two-year consultation process. They have discussed and drawn up action plans and identified areas of action for the future development of Germany’s water management and for the use of water and water bodies.
The core messages outlining the most important findings from the national dialogue on water were presented on 8 October 2020 at the final event, the 2nd National Water Forum.
It’s now the public’s turn
Now that experts have finished giving their input, the opinions and viewpoints of all interested individuals are needed. In February 2021, citizens selected at random in four different German locations were given the opportunity to share their points of view on selected topics, to discuss possible options for action for Germany’s water management and water-related environmental protection and to exchange and develop suggestions, ideas and recommendations.
These public workshops along with a youth workshop and an online dialogue form the basis for the citizens’ recommendation document, which will be submitted to Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze in June 2021.
For further information on the National Citizens’ Water Dialogue, please visit our online dialogue platform.
Logo for drinking fountains
Germany has more abundant water resources than almost any other country. Drinking water is our number one source of nourishment and available in excellent quality in Germany. Strict controls at regular intervals ensure safety so that drinking water here can be consumed without having to worry.
The BMU supports the supply of drinking water free of charge in public spaces, for example by displaying the logos of the BMU and the UN Water Action Decade on public drinking fountains.
Campaign Don’t give nature your leftovers
Medicine is invaluable for our health. It helps us recover from illness or stay in good health. At the same time, the active ingredients in medication can end up in the environment. Improper disposal of old or leftover medicines down the sink or toilet also helps medicines find their way into the environment. The good news is that it is easy to dispose of medicine correctly and it protects our rivers and lakes as habitats for animals and an additional resource for our drinking water. The Federal Environment Ministry is raising awareness in its information campaign "Don’t give nature your leftovers. Dispose of medicines properly." You can find an overview in the respective brochure.
Campaign No to the throwaway society
Plastic waste is harmful to humans and the environment. It pollutes our rivers and beaches, floats on the surface of our seas or lurks at the bottom of our oceans and harms aquatic life in a number of different ways. We can find it almost everywhere: in densely populated areas of the world but also in sparsely populated regions like the Arctic.
In this part of the world, we still use around 3,000 plastic bags each minute. That is why the federal cabinet, on the suggestion of Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze, initiated a ban on plastic bags. With this and other measures, the Federal Environment Ministry is ensuring that superfluous plastic is reduced.