Research Area: Water Resources and Environment (ENVIRO)
Research Line: Prognosis and management of water resources
Water resources of sufficient quantity and quality are the basis for an efficient water supply for agriculture, industry and population. Water quantity may be affected by water shortage due to climatic conditions or competitive use of water. Water quality may be affected by geogenic or anthropogenic pollutants. The prognosis and management of water quantity and quality are the main issues for future research to develop management strategies under the pressure of external factors like technical and socio-economical development or climate change.
The development and application of material balances and reactive transport models will be necessary to predict the fate of pollutants in surface and subsurface water systems. Focus will be set on nutrients (nitrogen and phosphor) and pollutants coming from agriculture, industrial and municipal waste water. Further research will include the identification of individual pollutants and the development of prediction tools and management strategies to mitigate their impact on water quality and environment. This will also include the investigation of processes during bank filtration and groundwater recharge as well as water harvesting by aquifer storage and recovery of wastewater or stormwater and general use of aquifers for water storage.
The investigation of effects arising from geothermal uses of the aquifer will be of further interest as well as the risks arising from oil and gas mining and energetic uses of subsurface water and storage capacities.
Research Line: Climate change and energy efficiency
There is increasing evidence of climate change impacts on large-scale and regional water cycles in Germany, Europe and worldwide. Climate change poses new challenges to regional resources and water infrastructure, with significant knowledge gaps to be closed by mitigation and adaptation research.
Water supply systems will have to cope with changing patterns in the seasonal water cycle, causing flooding of the existing assets or drought periods with potential water shortage or quality impairment. The impacts of climate change to the regional water cycles must be monitored as the base for adaptive system design. Our research will explore pathways to adapt the whole supply chain from catchment and treatment to distribution, developing adapted operational modes or new processes, and design criteria for flexible systems. Increasing competition on regional water resources will also be investigated jointly with stakeholders from water supply, agriculture, industry, power generation, in order to further understand interactions, to develop prognosis and management tools, and to support regional mitigation pathways.
The future urban and industrial water infrastructure should be transformed towards higher sustainability. Research will cover re-use opportunities, sustainable system design, water and energy efficient urban planning and regional transition roadmaps. Technical water systems can be modified to achieve higher energy efficiency, with research on energy saving technology in water production and distribution, on reclamation of energy and the potential of thermal energy utilisation from water resources. Potential conflicts between the exploitation of natural thermal energy and the protection of water resources have to be accompanied by research on interactions and effective protection measures.