The energy crisis and the faltering supply chains could threaten the German water supply.

The Chemical Industry Association (VCI), whose companies supply important products for the cleaning and treatment of drinking water and waste water, warns of this.

"The municipal suppliers have their backs to the wall, not only because of the pricing, but also because of the low availability of basic chemicals," said the new VCI President Markus Steilemann on Monday in Berlin.

Christian Geinitz

Business correspondent in Berlin

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Under normal conditions, these chemicals are manufactured in Germany, but there are now threatening bottlenecks due to high energy prices and disrupted supply chains.

For example, there is no hydrochloric acid dissolved in water for waste water treatment.

As a consequence, individual authorities have already suspended the environmental regulations for a short time: "This means that higher phosphate values ​​in the wastewater are tolerated, so that higher phosphate values ​​can be discharged into the water."

Unaware of the seriousness of the situation

The grievance still affects the wastewater in particular, said Steilemann.

"But if the supply bottlenecks continue to develop as dramatically as they are at the moment, then it is foreseeable that the problem will affect the fresh water supply.

Then the drinking water quality can no longer be ensured, or at least there will be drinking water restrictions.” In Germany, many are not aware of the seriousness of the situation if supply chains no longer function, Steilemann warned: “It is really the case that the high energy prices and the collapse of local value chains put certain supplies at risk for the population.”

The VCI President, who is CEO of the plastics manufacturer Covestro, called for the federal government to fight the energy crisis much faster and more effectively than before.

The chemical industry is characterized by medium-sized companies, 1700 of the 1900 member companies fall into this category.

The need among these companies is currently great.

"The situation in the energy-intensive chemical and pharmaceutical industry in Germany is more dramatic than ever before." There have not been as many concerned calls to the VCI headquarters in Frankfurt for decades as there are now.

"I expect that we are facing a wave of bankruptcies, but it is still unclear when it will come and how big it will be."

The federal government has announced many support programs, including the electricity and gas price brakes.

However, there is a great danger that the aid for industry would come too late and be diluted.

As an example, Steilemann cited the considerations of prohibiting companies that use the brakes from paying bonuses and dividends.

With the necessary investors abroad, especially in the USA, this requirement met with a complete lack of understanding.

The manager demanded a word of power from Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) to immediately introduce the gas price brake as proposed by the gas commission.

This also included renegotiations with the EU Commission on the obstructive state aid requirements of the Provisional Crisis Framework (TCF).

"Our companies need relief now, before it's too late, without cutbacks and without excessive bureaucracy."