Water resource management

Changes in land use and progressive climate change pose new challenges to the management of water in Switzerland. Despite being the ‘water tower of Europe’, as demonstrated by summer 2003, spring 2011 and the drought of 2015, Switzerland can be affected by temporary water shortages. Construction in groundwater protection zones and areas also poses an increasing threat to the security of the water supply.

Such problems can be dealt with in good time and conflicts about water volumes can be avoided through the forward-thinking regional planning of water resources. To help with the management of these water shortages, the FOEN defines principles for water management practice in three modules., which are based on the watershed management model. These include regional solutions for land-use conflicts involving water catchment areas and buildings in groundwater protection areas and water abstraction during periods of drought.

Module 1 - Identifying risk areas

Module 1 presents a process for determining the action requirement in relation to local water scarcity issues at cantonal level. This process gave rise to a water shortage index map. The report takes the very different ancillary conditions and water shortage problems in the cantons and regions into account by demonstrating alternatives and different methodological steps in detail.


Erarbeitung von Massnahmen zur langfristigen Sicherstellung der Wasserressourcen

Module 2 – Managing water resources in the long term

Water scarcity situations should be prevented in risk areas by long-term regional management
of the water resources. Only in this way can sufficient water resources be ensured for the different conservation and use requirements in the longer term. Because the baseline is very different across the various regions of Switzerland, there is no standard procedure. Instead, long-term planning and management compatible with each region and problem are needed. This report indicates how the issue
can be addressed using existing cantonal and regional planning instruments. Some 50 proposals for measures for long-term conservation of the water resources are also presented in the form of a checklist.

Modul 3 – Managing exceptional situations

Despite all efforts, a residual risk will always remain. Module 3 presents a tool box for the
short-term management of water scarcity situations. Module 3 is a tool box for the short-term management of water scarcity situations. The report provides an introduction to the federal legislative provisions and existing instruments available for the management of water resources in exceptional situations. Principles for the weighing up of different interests and prioritisation are presented. These form a basis for the frequently necessary balancing of protection and/or use interests in the context of exceptional situations. The presented principles can be further differentiated at cantonal or regional level so that regional discrepancies and variations can be taken into account. In addition, the report includes 22 practice-based measures that aim to alleviate impacts arising from exceptional situations. Finally, different possibilities are presented based on four cantonal cases of how the previously presented individual measures can be combined as required.

Effects of climate change on Swiss water bodies


Hydrology, water ecology and water management. 2021

Further information

Last modification 16.03.2016

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