Water Challenge for Tesla Gigafactory Where Musk Mocked Supply Concern

  • Location of Tesla’s German Gigafactory has experienced droughts due to climate change, Bloomberg reported.
  • Experts told Bloomberg there won’t be enough water in the area when Tesla scales up its factory.
  • It comes after Elon Musk laughed at water supply concerns in August, saying it was “everywhere.”

Elon Musk last year laughed at suggestions that Tesla’s new factory in Germany would take too much water from local supply, but a continued decline in water levels could now delay the plant’s development, Bloomberg reported.

Groundwater levels in the Brandenburg area have been dropping for the past three decades because of climate change, and the region has droughts in each of the last four years, Bloomberg reported. That means there wouldn’t be enough water for residents when Tesla scales up its factory, experts and local authorities told the newswire.

Environmental, including local environmental group Grüne Liga, have argued that Tesla’s German Gigafactory could threaten the area’s surroundings, in particular the drinking water.

They are now taking Brandenburg’s environment office to court, with a first hearing set for March 4, claiming that the effects of climate change were not considered when authorities gave the green light for a groundwater pump for Tesla’s Gigafactory, Bloomberg reported.

The legal action could result in further delays to the factory, per Bloomberg.

Tesla started building the facility near Berlin in early 2020. It was supposed to open on July 1 but has been set back following challenges by environmental developer, permit delays and a lizard problem. The company eventually plans to churn out 500,000 cars at the site.

“This region has so much water, look around you,” Musk said in reply to a question about the water supply during his visit to the Gigafactory in August, Reuters reported. “It’s like water everywhere here. Does this seem like a desert to you?” he laughed, per Reuters.

Joerg Steinbach, Brandenburg’s economy minister, told Bloomberg that “the current water supply is sufficient for the first stage of the factory” but when Tesla expands the factory, the area will need more water. Authorities in Brandenburg are supporting efforts to drill for more water locally and supply could be brought in from other areas if needed, Steinbach was reported as saying.

Tesla’s proposed factory would exacerbate the problem of low groundwater levels, Irina Engelhardt, head of the hydrogeology department at Berlin’s Technical University, told Bloomberg, adding that “there might not be enough water for everyone.”

Axel Bronstert, hydrology professor at the University of Potsdam, told Bloomberg that the amount of water consumed in the region would double because of the factory and described the water supply issue as “serious.”

Insider has reached out to Tesla and Brandenburg’s environment ministry for comment. Neither the company nor the ministry replied to Bloomberg’s requests for comments.

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