Supporting the National Water Strategy through scientific research
Mar 20, 2023
This month, the federal government of Germany introduced the first National Water Strategy. “With this strategy, the federal government is shining a spotlight on the necessity of integrated water resource management, serving as a leading example of resource use in the water sector on the international level,” explains Niels Schütze, Professor of Hydrology at TU Dresden. German water research has established the required scientific foundations over the past several years.
Despite advancements made, integrated water management faces numerous challenges, for instance in the area of adaptive management under conditions of concurrent use, limited resources and widespread uncertainties regarding future climatic, social and economic circumstances.
“The National Strategy is a good instrument for looking at and discussing the overall picture,” Niels Schütze says. Previously, it was possible to plan water distribution and storage about 50 years out in Germany. “With the changes brought about by climate change, it’s hard to see that far into the future. Now, we can only plan about 10 to 15 years out, and even this entails continual adjustments,” the hydrologist explains.
While there is currently no reason for alarm regarding the available drinking water, it remains to be seen what measures will be necessary for large consumers of water such as the agricultural and forest sectors as well as industry. On account of increasing aridity, the issue of the amount and intensity of irrigation in agriculture and forestry and the associated cost is becoming more and more urgent. However, the high water demand from industrial parks could lead to local shortages in isolated cases.
“We at TU Dresden see key potential for further scientific development and practical planning in visualized living labs, digital twins of environment and society, which are used to evaluate the entirety of influencing factors and interactions in bodies of water and their drainage areas,” says Niels Schütze. “The federal government’s National Water Strategy should therefore be coupled with a long-term scientific water research and development program that can support the step-by-step implementation of the Strategy.”
After all, although water scarcity and future availability of water in Germany stand at the center of the present debate, water quality and the guarantee of a good ecological state of natural bodies of water and moisture systems deserve more attention as well. Rising nitrate levels and the introduction of micro-pollutants are examples of the current most critical problems.
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