Heidewasserförderung: Disappointing responses from the Lower Saxony Ministry of the Environment

The pumping of water from the Nordheide by Hamburg Wasser (HW) has been controversial for decades. The ‘Higher Water Law Permit’ issued by the County of Harburg in 2019, which allows HW to pump an average of 16.6 million cubic meters per year from the northern moors for 30 years, is being challenged by HW, environmental organizations and private plaintiffs. That should be the reason why, more than ten years later, there is still no “Heidewasser Fund” or a new administrative agreement with the city of Hamburg.

MEPs André Bock and Heiner Schönecke (CDU) were disappointed to hear the responses of the Environment Minister Olaf Lies (SPD) and his ministry to the question “What’s next for Heidewasser?”

The Heidewasser Fund has, inter alia, support projects for the development of nature and the water balance in Nordheide to mitigate the damage caused by pumping water.
Already in September 2010, the so-called resolutions by the votes of CDU, FDP and SPD for a financial contribution to the protection of ground and surface waters, and in December 2013, at the initiative of the CDU, another resolution was adopted containing the following demands:
– limit the maximum purchase,
– clarifying after ten years in neutral expertise whether the reduced water demand allows a reduction in funding,
– The Hanseatic City of Hamburg or HW will make an appropriate annual contribution to the Heidewasser Fund
– Hamburg or HW undertake to fully compensate the damage caused by the extraction of groundwater.

A draft of a new administrative agreement with Hamburg, including the Heidewasser fund, is also available from 2015. At the request of several CDU MPs, the Lower Saxony Environment Ministry for the Environment has justified the fact that these points have not yet been met with an ongoing legal action against the increased permit issued by the county. The planned contract should be assessed as legally independent. However, there are substantive dependencies on which you should wait for the final decision.
The “change in management of the environmental department in Hamburg” is also cited. And in 2012, Hamburg made it clear that it would only sign the contract if a “water-legal concession” was granted to pump water, which in the event of damage would be more difficult to withdraw than the “extended permit” granted.

A game of time that is worthwhile at least for Hamburg and Hamburg Wasser:
Until now, water from Hamburg paid the so-called a cent of water for pumping water from the northern moorland. Together with other water sponsors from the county around 1.6 million euros per year for the federal state of Lower Saxony for compensatory measures Paid Parking. However, of this money only around 800,000 euros go into the affected Harburg district. At the same time, as CDU MPs report, Hamburg pays for water out of profits and fees approx. EUR 30 million annually to the budget of the Hanseatic City of Hamburg.
According to responses from the Lower Saxony Ministry for the Environment, from 1982 to the end of 2021, Hamburg Wasser pumped around 650 million cubic meters of groundwater through the Nordheide waterworks.

André Bock and Heiner Schönecke used the responses as an opportunity to deliver a personal letter to Minister Olaf Lies (SPD). They ask the minister to prioritize the talks with Hamburg and to work for the inhabitants of the affected counties. It has the full support of the Lower Saxony Landtag, and in particular of the CDU parliamentary faction. It was not only the colleagues in parliament involved in the investigation who would thank him if he had finally acted on the matter.

Heiner Schönecke: “Since 1974, the administrative agreement with Hamburg has been the subject of criticism. Numerous citizens’ initiatives and various organizations criticized the pumping of a total of 650 million cubic meters of water from the moorland area by the Hamburger Wasserwerke (Hamburg Wasser). “

André Bock: “In the answer that is now available, the ministry confirms that it is an administrative deal and that the state parliament has never voted on it. The fact is, however, that the state government and state parliament have political responsibility to the population in the affected counties. Even though the amount of the subsidy between Hamburg and the responsible Harburg County Lower Water Authority is still in dispute, the main features of the administrative arrangement between the heads of the authorities involved and HW may have already been negotiated and signed.

In his reply, Minister Lies writes that since 2015 there has been a broad consensus on the content of the administrative agreement.
Heiner Schönecke: “This should be talked about at the highest level in the last ten years. It would be good if after the change of government in 2013 to red and green and in 2017 to red and black, homeowners would negotiate this. “

• Nordheide Groundwater Protection Interest Group (IGN) has been fighting for the Heidewasser for over 30 years. Anyone who wants to help and protect the local groundwater resources can make a donation to the IGN account: IBAN DE82 2406 0300 4900 9001 00.

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