Luxembourgh Times

Rain water shortage to last for decade, say experts

Water levels have been around or below average since 2005

Rain on vegetation in Luxembourg

Rain on vegetation in Luxembourg © Photo credit: Lex Kleren

(The first and second paragraph of this story was corrected, changing the time frame. A new paragraph 8 was added).

By Maximilian Richard and Kate Oglesby

Consistent lack of precipitation over the past decade has left Luxembourg's ground water at levels that are too low - and in poor quality - and it will take several years to make up the shortfall.

Water levels have been around or below average since 2005, and a significant improvement will take several years, Luxembourg's Water Management has said, despite higher than average rainfall in December and January.

Half of Luxembourg’s drinking water comes from deeper parts of the soil, but rain shortfalls over the last few years have meant less water has been able to seep into those parts of the earth.

Only if it rains regularly, and over a longer period of time, will the ground be saturated enough for the water to leak lower into the soil, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of the Environment told the Luxemburger Wort.

Rain in winter months is also more effective as there are fewer plants, making it easier for water to travel deep into the soil.

There are around 270 taps to and 40 boreholes – narrow pipes going deep into the ground – extracting spring water in Luxembourg, with about 85% of them in protected zones to ensure the water is of good quality.

Some water outside these protection zones – with the capacity to supply around 62,000 residents – are not in use because the water is of poor quality, containing substances such as nitrates and pesticides.

It will take between ten and 15 years before the water quality from those locations improves, the ministry has said.

Luxembourg is no stranger to problems with its water. In May, Environment Minister Carole Dieschbourg revealed that part of a river running east of Luxembourg City had levels of phosphorus in it that were above legal thresholds under EU guidelines in two of the last four years.

The concentration of the chemical in the Syre river was found to be too high in both 2017 and again in 2020, Dieschbourg said in response to a parliamentary question, following a study of water quality.

In a separate incident at the end of April thousands of litres of fertiliser and fuel leaked into a river in the east of the country, after a lorry carrying the chemicals crashed. Some 15,000 litres of fertiliser and hundreds more of fuel seeped into the Ernz Noire, a tributary river of the Sûre.

And ammonia pollution in the Attert river in March this year also led to swathes of fish being killed after waste entered the stream following a fire at a gas plant in Grendel, Belgium, just over the border with Luxembourg.