EGU24-14956, updated on 14 Apr 2024
EGU General Assembly 2024
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

The role of emergency management in times of water stress – The need for adaptation

Danielle Carbon and Till Wenzel
Danielle Carbon and Till Wenzel
  • University of Vienna, Faculty of Earth Sciences, Geography and Astronomy, Department of Geography and Regional Research , Vienna, Austria (

Climate change threatens profoundly the quality and quantity of groundwater  resources. Extreme precipitation patterns and existing hydrospheric basins are likely to change. Today, in some regions a significant decline in surface and groundwater reservoirs can already be observed. Rather than solely relying on reactive adaptation measures during water scarcity emergencies, governments have the responsibility to develop proactive and preventative strategies through an effective emergency management.

However, some emergency measures such as the emergency drinking water supply or wildfire response require the permanent availability of regional surface and groundwater. Among other things, emergency drinking water management is mainly based on the extraction and treatment of surface water (e.g. mobile via tanker lorries) and groundwater (e.g. static via emergency wells).

The results of the NASA programme GRACE indicate that, in particular, regions where surface water has already declined significantly due to prolonged periods of drought tend to substitute groundwater. Concerns are raised that such substitution can further increase regional affectedness by further reducing the local water availability. 

In a comprehensive review of 79 documents dealing with the exemplary management of drinking water emergencies in Germany, it became clear that currently the synergy between emergency measures and water resources are not sufficiently reflected.

The study analysed publications by the German Technical and Scientific Association for Gas and Water (DVGW), the Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK), the Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW), the fire and rescue services and the German Red Cross (DRK).

The main objective was to identify gaps in the emergency management strategies including questions such as: To what extent regional water shortage and the resulting specific challenges for emergency management are currently addressed? And in turn, which impacts arise from the emergency management for water resources?

The results reveal that existing strategies are not tailored to the specific conditions of water stressed regions, as they neither address the damage or failure of the intended emergency structure (e.g. drying out of emergency wells) nor the protection of local water resources through further water abstraction. As a conclusion, emergency management should be integrated into a more holistic water management in an interdisciplinary approach. In doing so, regional water stress can be mitigated while at the same time the emergency management remains effective in face of future need.

Further work will include an EU-wide survey on how different emergency stakeholders involved in water-intense disaster management consider cascading effects of their measures and what GIS-based tools might support their decision making.

How to cite: Carbon, D. and Wenzel, T.: The role of emergency management in times of water stress – The need for adaptation, EGU General Assembly 2024, Vienna, Austria, 14–19 Apr 2024, EGU24-14956,, 2024.