IAHS-AISH Scientific Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Transdisciplinarity for sustainable groundwater management – a case from Germany

Robert Luetkemeier1 and Linda Söller2
Robert Luetkemeier and Linda Söller
  • 1Institute for Social-Ecological Research, Frankfurt am Main, Germany (luetkemeier@isoe.de)
  • 2Goethe University Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main, Germany (soeller@geo.uni-frankfurt.de)

The past droughts uncovered that groundwater resources in Germany are finite. Ecosystem degradation and restrictions in public water supply were the consequences of reduced groundwater recharge, particularly in 2018. This event only exemplifies the challenges for groundwater governance under climate change. Current frameworks like the European Water Framework Directive often fail to ensure the envisioned targets of good quantity and quality of (ground)water. Besides known contributing factors (limited resources, policy incoherencies), we see new supra-regional social-ecological interactions that transgress watershed boundaries and significantly influence local groundwater systems. In our research, we look through a telecoupling lens and thus reframe groundwater challenges.

Here, we present the findings of an ongoing inter- and transdisciplinary project on sustainable groundwater management in the federal state of Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. More and more municipalities shutdown local water supply facilities and connect themselves to a remote water supply network. In our case, nitrate and uranium contamination of groundwater as well as drought-induced low groundwater levels created public pressure to switch to the remote water supply network. Thus, a complex web of social-ecological interactions affects local and remote (ground)water resources. These processes can, however, not be explained by hydrology alone – they require a socio-hydrology approach. Here, we investigate the groundwater situation from an interdisciplinary perspective to better understand both societal and environmental phenomena locally and in remote places using the telecoupling framework.

In collaboration with stakeholders, we apply a methodologically guided transdisciplinary process of problem framing, interdisciplinary collaboration and knowledge integration. Therein, we particularly shed light on how the remote water supply network affects local groundwater bodies. Representatives from local and remote water suppliers, agriculture, nature conservation, regional planning, local and federal state agencies join this process to create a shared vision of sustainable groundwater management. Against the background of climate change and the evolvement of societal water demand, scenarios of specific measures are collaboratively developed with stakeholders to conserve the resource.

This ongoing research showcases, how stakeholder involvement can enrich a purely scientific perspective on groundwater challenges as local particularities and problem perceptions come to the forefront that offer options for applicable solutions.

How to cite: Luetkemeier, R. and Söller, L.: Transdisciplinarity for sustainable groundwater management – a case from Germany, IAHS-AISH Scientific Assembly 2022, Montpellier, France, 29 May–3 Jun 2022, IAHS2022-391, https://doi.org/10.5194/iahs2022-391, 2022.