Drinking water use
Drinking water is used intensively in diverse ways. Domestically, it is consumed for drinking, cooking and for purposes of hygiene, cleaning and watering. It is also used by industry and commerce and by the public sector to supply fountains, for watering and to clean infrastructure.
As the water reservoir of Europe, Switzerland has abundant water resources. Because there are significant seasonal and geographical variations in the availability of these resources, the main challenge is to supply the water at the right place, at the right time and in the required quantity and quality.
Drinking water use in Switzerland has decreased since the end of the 1970s despite a rising population. In 1977 it was 500 litres per head per day but the figure is now about 300. Given the average fall in consumption of about 25% from the year 2000 to the present, the trend in Swiss water use can be described as positive.
In terms of households, this trend is mainly attributable to the constant improvement in the water-efficiency of domestic appliances, changes in habits (prepared foodstuffs, disposable cleaning materials etc.) and probably also greater awareness among the population. In industry, this reduction is the result of significantly improved efficiency in the use of water, but also the relocation of some production sites, resulting in the transfer abroad of their water use (offshoring). This consumption reappears in the form of “virtual water” or “water footprint” in imports.
The indicator shown here only represents the trend in drinking water use in Switzerland. As is clear from the “Water footprint” indicator, Swiss use of water abroad, namely the water quantity used to produce the agricultural and industrial products we import, keeps increasing. The consequence of this trend is to increase the pressure on water resources in the exporting countries where water is sometimes very scarce.
At national level, available drinking water resources largely exceed average consumption in Switzerland, which is why the indicator status is evaluated as positive. In exceptional situations (e.g. longer periods of drought) however, local or regional shortages may occur. This necessitates ensuring good regional water distribution planning, for example by providing a second connection to protect against damage or drought. These measures are particularly important because these situations could become more frequent and serious as climate change progresses.
- Related indicators
It is difficult to obtain an international comparison for this indicator. Although the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) issues some data on water use, the definitions and methods of estimation used can vary widely from country to country.
Drinking water consumption by households, commerce and industry is recorded by the Swiss Gas and Water Industry Association (SVGW). The basic data currently derive from around 674 public water supplies; after collection they are extrapolated to the whole of Switzerland.
Figures on self-supply of households, commerce, industry and agriculture are not recorded regularly and are not considered in this indicator. Most recently, in 2008, a study was carried out by the SVGW to obtain a detailed record of self-supply in industry by sector and water origin for the period 1970–2006. A study by the consultants Hunzer-Betatech (Bereinigung und Dokumentation Berichterstattung Eurostat/OECD, May 2015), based partly on the ReKeWaNu project, also provided data on self-supply. Regular collection of these data is not planned at this time.
|Targeted trend||Initial value||Final value||Variation in %||Observed trend||Assessment|
|Decrease||Average 2000-2002||Average 2018-2020||-25.24%||Decrease||positive|