Helmholtz Water Network

Research Platform 4: Integrated observation of the terrestrial water cycle


Foto: DLR

Need for long-term observations

Climate and land use change are key factors influencing the terrestrial hydrological system which need to be managed by society in the coming decades. Therefore optimal management and sustainable use of water resources require the availability and valorization of long-term monitoring data related to the water status of the terrestrial system from the local to the catchment scale as well as validated and integrated hydrological models. Long-term observations are needed in order to detect complex interaction and feedback mechanism between the various compartments of the hydrological system and to identify long-term trends in observed states and fluxes.

Research focus

The combination of comprehensive multi-scale and multi-temporal measurements of terrestrial system states and fluxes with physically based simulations is a prerequisite to improve our understanding of hydrological processes and to validate integrated terrestrial models. The process-oriented and hypothesis-driven observation of landscapes and catchments requires the development of new and the improvement of existing surface- and subsurface characterization and environmental sensing concepts and technologies. Their application should allow a comprehensive and quantitative description of reference catchments with respect to the complex variety of environmental parameters and fluxes.

Work package 1: Development of novel observation and exploration technologies

Work package 2: Establishing a network of hydrological observaties for model development and validation

Work package 3: Data Management and data integration

Work package 4: Dataassimilation and demand driven observation

Research interfaces within Helmholtz Water Network:


Research within the Helmholtz Association (POF III):


  • MOSES (Modular Observation Solutions for Earth Systems) (Coordination: UFZ, contribution: KIT, FZJ, GFZ, HMGU, AWI, HZG, DLR, GEOMAR)
  • TERENO - Terrestrial Environmental Observatories (Coordination: FZJ, UFZ, KIT, HMGU, GFZ, DLR, with the involvement of many universities)
  • ACROSS - Advanced Remote Sensing – Ground Truth Demo and Test Facilities (FZJ, GFZ, HMGU, HZG, KIT, UFZ)
  • Helmholtz-Allianz: Remote Sensing and Earth System Dynamics (DLR, UFZ, GFZ, HMGU, FZJ, KIT)

Projects and further activities:

  • DFG Ensemble Kalman Filter for estimation of rock properties in geothermal reservoirs characterized by fractured rocks or fluviatile sediments
  • BMBF BONARES - Zentrum für Bodenforschung (Koordination: UFZ, beteiligte Institutionen: TU München)   
  • BMBF INPLAMINT - Erhöhung der landwirtschaftlichen Nährstoffnutzungseffizienz durch Optimierung von Pflanze-Boden-Mikroorganismen-Wechselwirkungen (Koordination: FZJ, beteiligte Institutionen: HMGU)
  • BMBF Soil³ - Nachhaltiges Unterbodenmanagement (Koordination: Universität in Bonn, beteiligte Institutionen: FZJ)
  • DFG-Project IMAP "Integrating Microwave Link Data For Analysis of Precipitation in Complex Terrain: Theoretical Aspects and Hydrometeorological Applications" (Coordination: KIT, contributing institutions: TU München, An-Najah National University (Palästina), Tel Aviv University (Israel), Kinneret Limnological Laboratory (Israel), The Jerusalem College of Technology (Israel))
  • Virtual Institute PROCEMA “Regional Precipitation Observation by Cellular Network Microwave Attenuation and Application to Water Resources Management” (KIT)
  • ICLEA - Virtual Institute of Integrated Climate and Landscape Evolution Analyses (GFZ, Ernst Moritz Arndt University Greifswald, BTU Cottbus, Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN))
  • DFG FOR 2131 "Data Assimilation for Improved Characterization of Fluxes across Compartmental Interfaces" (Koordination: Univ. Bonn, beteiligte Institutionen: FZJ, UFZ, Univ. Tübingen)
  • TR-32 - Transregional Collaborative Research Centre 32 (FZJ, RWTH Aachen, University Bonn, University Cologne)
  • CAWa - Regional Research Network "Central Asian Water" (Koordinierung: GFZ)
  • CAOS: From Catchments as Organised Systems to Models based on Functional Units (DFG-Research group) (Coordination: KIT, contributing institutions: UFZ, GFZ)
  • EU-Project: ModelPROBE - Model driven Soil Probing, Site Assessment and Evaluation (Coordination: UFZ, contribution: University Bonn)
  • PhD-Twinning: Emerging Contaminats in Aquatic Sediments - Focus on European estuarys (HZG, UFZ)
  • PhD-Twinning: Reactive N in watersheds – sources, cycling and sinks (HZG, UFZ)

Completed projects:

  • DFG-Project WATERFLUX (UFZ, Universität Bayreuth)
  • Virtual Institute HALO “High-Altitude Long-Distance Research Aircraft” (DLR, GFZ, FZJ, KIT, MPI)
  • WISDOM – Water-related Information System for the sustainable Development of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam (Coordination: DLR, contributing institutions: GFZ, further: UNU-EHS, Univ. Würzburg, ZEF, INRES...)


Download brochure Helmholtz Water Network



07.-09.06.2017: International ICLEA Symposium „Climate Change and Landscape Evolution in North Central Europe“ (GFZ)

04.-18.8.2017 CAWR International Summer School "Network functional dynamics -
Technological, Human & Ecological Dimensions

Direct links:


Dr. Christiane Katterfeld
Phone: +49 391 8109101