Photo Stories

Can Geneva’s water help protect the climate?

By Amine S. and Julien.C, Switzerland, 17 years old

Most of Geneva’s water comes from Lake Geneva. © Amine.S and Julien.C (12.02.23)

Today, more and more people drink tap water, which has increasingly been made available to households over the years, making access to it simpler, safer and inexpensive. In 2007, almost 54%* of the population of Geneva drank the city’s water; today, that figure has increased to 93%. According to the SSIGE (Société Suisse des Industries du Gaz et des Eaux), drinking water from the tap is up to 1,000 times better for the environment than mineral water (in bottles or large plastic dispensers) when consumed (SDGs 6 and 13).

Climate change means that society must find solutions to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and ensure the world is viable for future generations. Since the middle of the 20th century, Geneva’s drinking water has been supplied by Services industriels de Genève (SIG), which has enabled more environmentally responsible, accessible, local water consumption, using 100% renewable energy sources. According to Gérard Luyet, former director of drinking water (SIG) and now dealing with national and international relations in the drinking water field, “Our aim is to reduce CO2 emissions in line with the cantonal climate plan, which is targeting a 60% reduction by 2030 and even carbon neutrality by 2050”. SIG is successfully reducing its carbon footprint thanks to its immediate proximity to raw water, removing the need for transport as well as packaging. An estimate of water consumption requirements is produced to avoid treating more water than necessary and wasting electricity. Accordingly, SIG’s water reservoirs are filled at night to avoid the high cost of electricity during the day. SIG’s infrastructure is equipped with solar panels so that it consumes clean energy and it runs prevention campaigns on water pollution (such as the pollution caused by medicines that are flushed down the toilet). In spite of the efforts made by SIG, it is difficult to reduce the carbon footprint due to transporting and treating water any further, since these already produce little pollution. Some countries around the world do not provide drinking water for their entire population and even fewer do so in an environmentally responsible way. More and more countries need to move towards a system similar to Geneva’s for it to have a global impact.


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