The Federal Administrative Court has ruled that laundry can be washed with well water.

Judgement on the use of rainwater

On 31 March 2010 the Federal Administrative Court ruled in favour of a judgement on the washing of laundry. According to Dietmar Sperfeld, an expert at Fachvereinigung Betriebs- und Regenwassernutzung e.V. (German Association for Rainwater Harvesting and Water Utilisation), the judgement will also have far-reaching implications for users of rainwater harvesting systems. Water associations, water providers and groups of interested parties are continually casting doubt in the minds of consumers wanting to run their washing machine with rainwater as well as flushing their toilet and watering their garden from such sources. Although such use has long been approved through various judgements, the Federal Administrative Court, the highest level of jurisdiction in Leipzig, has once again underlined this.

A group of plaintiffs from Saxony, wanting to use well water to wash their laundry, has therefore now won their case at all levels of jurisdiction The court rejected the revision from the water supply association on the grounds that in accordance with European law the Drinking Water Ordinance only stipulates that every home must feature a drinking water supply. Legislation does not however govern consumer behaviour and consumers can therefore use well water to wash laundry in their own home if they choose to do so.  

The judgement also states that " the Drinking Water Ordinance leaves it to the individual to decide whether he or she uses drinking water or water of an inferior quality to wash laundry in his or her own home. 

Good for consumers - good for the environment!

Sperfeld welcomes the fact that rainwater users finally have clarity regarding the use of rainwater from the highest judicial level. For years associations have been casting doubt in the minds of rainwater harvesting system operators even though the Drinking Water Ordinance clearly allows rainwater to also be used in washing machines. Over the last few years, use of washing machines has also been included in promotional programmes run by the German states. Sperfeld believes that the judgement will go a long way towards conserving drinking water in Germany. When washing machines are operated with soft rainwater, they also require considerably less detergent and there is no need whatsoever for softener. Sperfeld stresses that a reduction in water consumption and the use of detergents can only be good news for the environment.

Depending on the number of inhabitants in a home, fitting a rainwater harvesting system can result in rainwater savings of up to 50 percent. An increasing number of industrial and commercial premises with high water consumption are also switching over to rainwater systems. Germany enjoys a leading global position in this sector for environmental technology. The judgement from Leipzig is therefore the right one for the environment and for Germany.  

Judgement, Az: BVerwG 8 C 16