Quantity – Availability and Uncertainty

Groundwater is Europe’s most important source of drinking water. However, in many regions its quantity has dropped over the past hot and dry years as the result of a combination of climate change effects and anthropogenic water use patterns. The subproject ‘Quantity – Availability and Uncertainty’ investigates these combined effects on groundwater availability and the inherent uncertainties in forecasting water consumption patterns and the effects of climate change in order to inform local and pan-European groundwater management.

Photo: Dirk – stock.adobe.com

The main objective is the analysis and scenario-based assessment of the effects of climate change and societal water use on groundwater quantity, taking uncertainty into account. The subproject contributes to the consideration of uncertainty in the estimation of current and future groundwater availability in a participatory, model-based process in two European case studies. Participation enables cooperation between different actors who are directly or indirectly dependent on groundwater. Participating actors are for instance representatives from politics, industry, agriculture, nature conservation, science or society. The result of this collaboration is the generation of new knowledge, which could not be achieved through scientific research alone. In addition, uncertainties in participatory processes can be taken into account even better.

Irrigation systems in a green vegetable garden. Photo: Deyan Georgiev – stock.adobe.com

The research thus contributes to the further development of integrative modeling methods that consider societal and natural processes as well as the understanding of the drivers of societal/sectoral water demand. Finally, the impacts of both climate change and societal water use, in particular, the uncertainties or risks they contain are integrated through participatory modeling techniques such as e.g., Bayesian networks. Bayesian networks describe causal relationships between different variables probabilistically and can integrate both quantitative as well as qualitative data. Modeling techniques are also used to quantify the impacts of actor-specific courses of action. The goal is to explore how irreducible uncertainties can best be taken into account to contribute to sustainable groundwater management strategies in Europe.


Linda Söller
Goethe University Frankfurt


Prof. Dr. Petra Döll
Goethe University Frankfurt

Dr. Robert Lütkemeier
ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research /
Goethe University Frankfurt