​Water Management

Part 3 of the introductory series on corporate environmental protection deals with the protection of waters.
I’m not concerned with less plastic in the ocean and similar issues in this post. Although this does matter because it can be the consequence of what goes into the water in your immediate vicinity.
My point in this post is to first look at our immediate environment and address where you can have a direct impact.

You can find the other articles in this series here:
Part 1: Waste management
Part 2: Keeping the air clean
Part 4: Energy and climate protection

​Water species

Germany differentiates into 1st, 2nd, and further order waters, coastal and marine waters, or surface near or far groundwater. I don’t think that helps us in this more general contribution. Let’s make it simple and distinguish between groundwater and surface waters.

​Types of pollution – what can happen?

First, the question:

​What is water pollution?

Adverse changes in water quality

http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/awsv/__2.html – own translation

This is a quote from the ordinance taken out of context. That’s exactly it: Usually it’s substances that get into the water and change the water. For example,

  • deplete oxygen, causing fish to suffocate
  • change the pH value or the temperature in such a way that animals and plants can no longer live in the resulting environment
  • toxic substances with which living beings are poisoned, i.e. killed
  • large and small pieces of rubbish floating in the water

In the definition, it must be a detrimental, i.e. a change for the worse. Water purifications and drinking water treatment, to name just two keywords, are not meant, as beneficial changes are to be achieved in these plants.

​What is the bad thing about water pollution?

You can see a few consequences as examples in the list above.

Water pollution can have acute consequences: one substance gets into the stream and the fish are already swimming belly up.

They can have medium- and longer-term consequences. For example, substances that are ingested by plants or animals and lead to diseases or accumulate in the food chain. Media-effective and perhaps one or the other has already seen pictures of animals with ulcers.

They can have long-term consequences that may not be detected until very late. I am thinking here of substances that accumulate in groundwater and, above a certain concentration, can be toxic or cause chronic diseases.

They can be degradation products. Substances that transform in the water, break down into other substances or similar. Only the resulting substances are the harmful ones.

The bad thing about the last two possibilities is that we often don’t even know when and how this pollution was caused and whether more is coming. So that we are hardly able to stop a persistent pollution.

Compared to, for example, litter lying in the area, in the case of water pollution we have a more rapid distribution and therefore a larger area polluted. This happens in flowing waters by flowing and mixing. Here and in standing waters additionally by dissolving in the water.

However, distribution or dilution in water does not mean that the problem will solve itself.

​How can you contribute to water protection?

What does this mean for your company? What can or must you do to prevent water pollution?

There are a few things that everyone can do, both in the workplace, or at work, and privately, or in their free time:

​Avoid active contamination

Sorry, don’t do:

Don’t put anything down the drain that doesn’t belong. No sweepings in the drain, no medicines in the toilet. Even if there is a waste water treatment or sewage treatment facility behind it, they can’t do everything and once they are impaired in their performance, in case of doubt it gets worse.

Do not handle mineral oils on the lawn. Also, do not handle other substances that you know may be hazardous to water. At least fuel your lawn mower or leaf blower on the pavement.

As you can see, we can avoid both direct and indirect pollution.

We can reduce the likelihood of something happening. We can ensure that the impact remains as low as possible.

​Water protection measures – the basics

As a rule, the measures are for the protection of surface waters, but also protect groundwater. At this point, I would like to limit myself to general suggestions.


For containers, make sure they are in perfect condition: no holes from which it can leak, clean, large enough, suitable for the substance. The easiest solution is to use original containers.

​Filling or decanting

Only on a dense underground. Use aids such as filler necks or funnels.


Comparable for containers: Ensure that both the warehouse and the stored containers are clean and free of leaks or contamination.

Store water-polluting substances in such a way that leaking quantities cannot reach surrounding areas or soil and water. Secondary containments or rooms that can accommodate leakage quantities are helpful.

Make sure that different substances do not react with each other when released.

Keep storage quantities as low as possible.


Transport your material in approved containers only. Approval means that you can assume that they also offer a certain level of protection in the event of accidents.

Secure the load sensibly for transport.


Use the material sparingly. Do not take more with you on site than you can process. Take residual quantities back to store and leave nothing behind.

​Be prepared

Even if you do everything right, still something bad can happen. How do you act if something happens that you can’t handle yourself and easily.

Do you have the ability to handle minor incidents yourself? Suitable tools to absorb leakages? A cover for the next sink?

Who do you turn to when you can’t manage on your own? To helpers in your own company or on the construction site? How do you alert them?

Do you need external help, i.e. fire brigade? How do you reach them – of course: 112 – where is the nearest telephone?

Do you have the information your helpers need to help quickly, specifically and safely? Do you have a safety data sheet at hand or at least know the exact name of the substance?

​In summary

There are many detailed rules on water protection and the handling of substances hazardous to water, from laws to technical rules and standards. Many of the generally described measures can be legally regulated extensively and in detail for your business. To go more intensively into details would be very technical and would go beyond the scope of this introduction.

In summary, it is a matter of not changing water adversely. Water is one of our most important sources of life.

We can do a great deal to protect water by following general rules, depending on the substances we handle, what we do with them or what hazards they pose.