In potash and rock salt mining, water from different origins and of different quality levels including river water, groundwater and drinking water is used in many processes.
Raw salt is generally mined by means of drilling and blasting in the underground mining of potash and rock salt. However, salt can also be extracted in a brine plant, where fresh water is introduced into soluble (salt) rock by means of a borehole, resulting in the creation of chambers filled with salt water. The salt-saturated water (so-called brine) is then con- veyed to the surface via another pipeline. The salt is ultimately extracted when the brine evaporates.
During the initial development of a deposit of natural resources, the pumping out of groundwater can lead to a lowering of the groundwater level. Water abstractions during extraction of the natural resources may also be necessary e.g. to keep shafts or excavation pits dry. This so-called drainage and mine water is, if necessary, treated, purified, seeps away or, if applicable, reused, e.g. to maintain moist biotopes or introduced into surface water without being used further.
The use of water by the mining industry is associated with consequences for the water balance. Environ- mental impacts can result from, among other causes, the change in the groundwater level, the flow rate of water bodies and the introduction of drainage and mine water into surface waters.
Water abstraction in the natural resources sector by state in 2016 (in 1,000s of m³)
If the volume of ground or surface water abstracted exceeds certain thresholds, environmental impact assessments must be carried out for the projects concerned.
The implementation of the WRRL into national law took place in Germany through the Water Resources Act, which regulates the protection and use of surface and groundwater at national level. Water abstraction procedures are subject to the reservation on the grant- ing of permission by the water authorities. The water laws of the Federal States supplement and concretise the federal water laws. Overall, the Federal States are left to regulate the water abstraction fees.
In most Federal States, levy rates differ according to the type of abstraction, volume, origin of the water (surface water or groundwater) and the purpose for which the water is to be used. There are also various state-specific deviations from the relevant rules through exemptions or discounts, and these may also apply to the natural resources sector.
1 Federal Office of Statistics (2021): Environmental economic accounting URL: https://www.destatis.de/DE/Themen/Gesellschaft-Umwelt/Umwelt/ UGR/_inhalt.html (Accessed on 25 November 2021).
2 In some Federal States, a distinction is made between the following two sectors: 1. ores, quarried natural resources, other mining products and 2. coal, peat, oil and natural gas; e.g. Saxony State Office of Statistics (2013): Water supply and waste water disposal in the operations of the non-public sector in the Free State of Saxony. https://www.statistischebibliothek.de/mir/servlets/MCRFileNodeServlet/SNHeft_derivate_00006220/Q_I_2_3j_13_SN.pd- f;jsessionid=26B6141659185B4E5052687F0D471F70. In 2016 the water abstraction by business and private households was around 29.6 billion m³, see https://www.destatis.de/DE/Themen/Querschnitt/Jahrbuch/jb-umwelt.pdf? blob=publicationFile
3 In its ruling of 11 September 2014 (docket ref. C-525/12), the European Court of Justice (ECJ) confirmed that with these federal and state regulations, Germany had sufficiently implemented the principle of cost recovery from the EU Water Framework Directive. The ECJ also expressly points out that in accordance with the provisions of Article 9(4) of this directive, the EU Member States are in any case empowered not to apply the cost-covering principle to certain water uses, while addressing the purposes and objectives of the directive.
4 Association of municipal enterprises e. V. (VKU) (2020): Comparison of water abstraction charges in the Federal States (Wasserentnahmeentgelte der Bundesländer im Vergleich). URL: https://www.vku.de/fileadmin/user_upload/Verbandsseite/Presse/Grafiken_und_Statistiken/Wasser_Abwass- er/201006_VKU-Grafik_Wasserentnahmeentgelte_2020.jpg (Accessed on 25 November 2021).
5 Gawel/Bretschneider (2016): Water abstraction fees in Baden-Wuerttemberg Inventory and Evaluation. Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, URL: https://www.ufz.de/index.php?de=40917 (Accessed on 25 November 2021).
6 German Federal Environment Agency (2017): Table of water abstraction fees in the natural resources sector in the Federal States. URL: https://www. umweltbundesamt.de/sites/default/files/medien/2466/dokumente/tabelle_wasserentnahmeentgelte_im_rohstoffsektor_uba_neu.docx (Accessed on 25 November 2021).
7German Federal Environment Agency (2021): Economic questions. URL: https://www.umweltbundesamt.de/themen/wasser/wasser-bewirtschaften/ oekonomische-fragen#textpart-1 (Accessed on 25 November 2021).
8 According to § 341v HGB for example, payments of water usage fees were reported by the following companies for 2019: Holcim (Deutschland) GmbH: EUR 394,000; LEAG Lausitzer Energie Bergbau AG: EUR1,116,539.24; RWE Group/RWE Power AG and RWE Rheinische Baustoffwerke GmbH: EUR12,908,328; source: Annual payment reports – https://www.bundesanzeiger.de/