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Research project WaterNeeds

Sustainable water resources management and the role of ecosystem services and environmental hazards

Within the research project "How to overcome the trade-offs between human and environmental water needs in times of global change: The role of ecosystem services and hazards" different case studies in Europe, South Africa, China, and Australia will be compared. Doing so, we want to identify relevant institutional settings important for sustainable and adaptive water resources management in order to fulfill the requirements for human and environmental water needs.

The sustainable management of water resources in times of global change is one of the most pressing challenges of the 21st century. Alarming trends such as water shortages and pollution, climate change (floods and droughts), socio-economic growth and deterioration of ecosystem integrity increase the pressure on water quality and quantity. Often, socio-economic requirements (e.g., water for agriculture or industrial usages, sanitation and drinking) are preferred over water for many ecological processes and functions. This might be profitable for short-term benefits but does not provide a sustainable strategy in the long-term.

The importance of ecosystem service for human well-being can be expressed by the concept of ecosystem services. This concept provides a strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources that promotes sustainable use and conservation in an equitable way. The ecosystem services concept integrates social-ecological systems in an attempt to explain the effects of human policies and actions on natural systems and on human well-being. Research combing governance and management analyses and ecosystem services has only recently received more attention and is nearly absent in the field of water. The proposed project aims at closing this gap.

The project will take up these scientific challenges and will further develop and apply an analytical framework of intermediate complexity to analyze the complex dynamics and factors that influence the transition of water resource governance and management systems towards sustainability. It will provide insights on the role of an integrated perspective on ecosystem services and hazards to support and sustain such change.

This is the first DFG (German Research Foundation) funded project in the field of water research using a system oriented concept in which social and natural science combine an interdisciplinary milestone.