Usage, distribution, and protection of water: How can conflicts in Germany be mitigated at an early stage?


Water is one of the most important raw materials on earth. But what if it becomes increasingly scarce as a result of climate change and future weather extremes? An interdisciplinary group of scientists is investigating conflicts regarding the future usage and distribution of water, preservation of water resources, and protection against flooding. The aim is to relieve expected conflict situations in Germany on the basis of possible solutions.

Even in Germany, a country rich in water, local and seasonal water stress could lead to intensified conflict in future, for example between agriculture, industry, energy and water management, and the protection of ecosystems that rely on water. By means of modeling and simulations, researchers are setting out to make interdependencies between the various sectors and interest groups transparent, and to pinpoint possible conflicts of interest.

The subsidized project focuses on the following questions: What influence does climate change have on water conflicts in Germany? How will future strategies and decisions on the part of various social protagonists affect conflict situations? What combinations of strategies and measures can aggravate or mitigate future water conflicts? How can participatory modeling and simulations serve to support protagonists in anticipating conflicts and devising appropriate strategies?

Three case studies of particular relevance to Germany are examined here by way of example. The Jülich Research Center is studying conflicts of aims in a river catchment area under conditions of future climate extremes. The University of Stuttgart is conducting a case study concerned with conflicts in irrigation, particularly of agricultural land and municipal greenery. The Technical University of Freiberg is analyzing (cross-frontier) water conflicts arising in the course of large-scale projects with open-cast lignite mines or their subsequent flooding.

The findings from the case studies contribute to the development of a web application for professional users in science, administration, and practice. The workshop version of this application is being tested by interested protagonists in simulations and in university teaching. The project fundamentally envisages the further development of a participatory, semi-quantitative software-supported approach to system analysis that can be transferred to other topic fields and conflicts of objectives. The conflict field of water is to be made readily experienceable for all protagonists, so that they can find strategies that both conform to the goals and mitigate conflict.

Project participants
  • University of Stuttgart, Center for Interdisciplinary Risk and Innovation Research (ZIRIUS)
    Dr. Wolfgang Weimer-Jehle (Coordination)
    Dr. Hannah Kosow (Coordination)
    Janina Moschner
  • Forschungszentrum Jülich, Institute of Energy and Climate Research – Systems Analysis and Technology Evaluation (IEK-STE)
    Dr. Stefan Vögele
    Simon Brauner
  • Technical University Bergakademie Freiberg, Environmental and Resource Economics
    Prof. Dr. Dirk Rübbelke
    Anja Brumme
    Fabian Hölzlberger
Other contributors
  • Dr. Ines Dombrowsky, German Institute of Development and Sustainability, Program Management “Environmental Governance”
  • Prof. Dr. Martina Flörke, Ruhr University Bochum, Chair of Engineering Hydrology and Water Resources Management
  • Dipl.-Ing. Christoph Jeromin, Lake Constance Water Supply Association
  • Dr. Hagen Koch, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
  • Prof. Dr. Hannah Schmid-Petri, University of Passau, Chair of Science Communication
  • Prof Dr. Vanessa Schweizer, University of Waterloo (Canada), Department of Knowledge Integration
Further information



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