Oslo suddenly faces a water shortage

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It only took less than three weeks without rain and unusually warm temperatures for the Norwegian capital to suddenly face a looming shortage of drinking water. Oslo city officials imposed a ban Monday on watering lawns and gardens and all use of garden hoses, after a weekend when demand for water far exceeded supplies.

This large lake in the hills above Oslo, known as Maridalsvannet, supplies 90 percent of the city’s drinking water. The Oslo Fjord can be seen in the distance. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

“Because of much too much consumption of water, the city must impose a ban on watering and use of garden hoses,” reads the text message sent out to Oslo city residents just before noon on Monday.

Use of watering cans was still allowed, and would likely be impossible to enforce if a ban on that were to be enforced. It’s also questionable how the city can enforce the new ban on using hoses or sprinklers, but they would be more visible.

“We have to do this so that we don’t run out of drinking water,” the official message from the city continued, adding that the ban on watering applies to all those connected to the City of Oslo’s water supply. Those with their own wells are exempt.

Restrictions elsewhere, too
Several other municipalities around Oslo have already imposed water restrictions, including the town of Eidsvoll. It’s ironic, after a winter with so much snow that officials were worrying just months ago about what to do with all the water when the snow and ice melted. Some flooding has occurred, and the river running through Eidsvoll itself remains swollen and well over its banks in some areas.

Yet a drought suddenly looms, mostly because Norway is generally unprepared for lengthy periods of hot weather like that which descended on the southern part of the country earlier this month. Fully 90 percent of Oslo residents get their drinking water from the large lake north of the city called Maridalsvannet, which is fed by creeks and other lakes running into it from farther north in the forested hills of Nordmarka.

Production problems
The water from Maridalsvannet is piped to a main water treatment plant that in turn sends it out to other facilities, but they haven’t been producing and distributing water quickly enough to meet demand. Newspaper Aftenposten reported during the weekend that problems were already surfacing in the Oslo neighbourhoods of Ekeberg, Bekkelaget and Korsvoll, where residents experienced low water pressure.

Trond Ottersen, communications chief for Oslo’s water and sewer department, said that no areas were without water during the weekend. He said department officials described the problem as being tied to delivery when demand was so high in the hot and dry weather.

After decades of planning, the City of Oslo has launched a major project to supply Oslo with another source of drinking water from the Holsfjord, an arm of the Tyrifjord west of the city. It’s not due to be completed, however, until 2028.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund