GLOWA Elbe II: Impacts of global change on the hydrological cycle of the Elbe River Basin

Risks and options




2004 − 2007


Project Description

The environmental quality and the socioeconomic performance of the Elbe river basin are to a large extent influenced by factors which depend on water or which have an impact on water. Based on the first project phase of GLOWA Elbe it is examined, in which way the conflict spheres surface water availability and surface water quality are linked to the drivers economic growth and structural change as well as climate change. Furthermore, the potentials regarding policy adoption to these change processes in the context of long term planning are considered. Based on different scenarios of future change in major drivers (climate change, societal change) and complemented by policy scenarios to adopt to these changes, numerical simulations are executed for water-depended economic sectors. The results will be analysed with respect to the above mentioned conflict spheres and will be integrated in an assessment approach of the overall effect. As a result long-term policy recommendations will be derived, which are meant to serve policy makers and economic actors as future guidelines.

Scientific Approach

1. Integrative methodological approach (IMA)

The integrative methodological approach, which was developed in the first research phase of GLOWA Elbe, plays a central role for the coherence of project structure and time schedule as well as for the coherence and consistency of the global change research process. IMA is a methodological approach stemming from systems analysis, which supports objective-oriented scenario analyses under involvement of water users and policy makers. It comprises definitions and categories for the formulation and definition of problems and conflicts as well as a research sequence for global change scenario analysis. At the same time, IMA represents an applied research philosophy for evaluating policy strategies under conditions of uncertainty regarding global change processes. The four research steps "scenario development", "definition of indicators and criteria to measure and evaluate change", "impact analysis" and "integrative assessment" as well as their transdisciplinary implementation are vital characteristics of IMA.

2. Integrated modell system

For the simulation of global change processes an integrated model system will be built up during the second research phase of GLOWA Elbe. This model system comprises water-related natural science and economic models to enable long-term scenarios of surface water availability and quality. The most important driving forces of global change and their impacts on the water cycle are simulated by means of four models (climate model, agro-economic model, economic and dempgraphy model, technological change model). The aggregate results on global change processes will be disaggretated by a spatial model called "Land Use Scanner". Its results are then fed into sector models for water intensive sectors (energy, households, agriculture, industry) and lead to simulations of water demand and production of nutrient emissions. These are finally major inputs for a water balance model and a nutrients transport model, which together simulate long-term scenarios on water availability and water quality. The respective models are given by individual research institutes, which have modelling expertise of many years. UFZ is responsible for modelling water demand of private households. The integration of all model into the model system is a common interdisciplinary task, which must be achieved by intensive interdisciplinary communication.


IMA has already been developed in the first phase of GLOWA Elbe and first publications are at hand, e.g.:

  • Messner, F., Zwirner, O., Karkuschke, M. (2004), Participation in Multicriteria Decision Support for the Resolution of a Water Allocation Problem in the Spree River Basin. Land Use Policy, online in december 2004, in press for the journal.
  • Messner F. Wenzel V., Becker A., Wechsung F. (2005), Der Integrative Methodische Ansatz von GLOWA-Elbe. In: Wechsung, F., Becker, A., Gräfe, P. (Hrg.): Integrierte Analyse der Auswirkungen des Globalen Wandels auf Wasser, Umwelt und Gesellschaf im Elbegebiet. PIK-Report Nr. 95, Potsdam April 2005, S. 69-76.

The integrated model system is still in the process of development. First simulations are planned to take place mid of 2006. First publications on this topic are therefore not to be expected before 2006.

The integrative and model-based evaluation has been realised for some water use groups in the first GLOWA Elbe research phase. First publications are at hand or are in print:

  • Messner F., Kaltofen M., Koch H., Zwirner O. (2005), Integrative wasserwirtschaftliche und ökonomische Bewertung von Flussgebietsbewirtschaftungsstrategien. In: Wechsung, F., Becker, A., Gräfe, P. (Hrg.): Integrierte Analyse der Auswirkungen des Globalen Wandels auf Wasser, Umwelt und Gesellschaf im Elbegebiet. PIK-Report Nr. 95, Potsdam April 2005, S. 225-234.
  • Messner, F., Kaltofen, M. (Hrsg.) (2004), Nachhaltige Wasserbewirtschaftung und regionale Entwicklung - Analyse und Bewertung von Szenarien zum Wassernutzungskonflikt im bergbaubeinflussten Einzugsgebiet der Oberen Spree, UFZ-Bericht 1/2004, Leipzig, Dresden und Cottbus, 95 S.
  • Messner, F., Koch, H., Kaltofen, M. (forthcoming), Integration of Economic Evaluation into the Water Management Simulation Model WBalMo. In: Erickson, J., Messner, F., Ring, I. (Hg.), Sustainable Watershed Management in Theory and Practice, (ch. 6), Elsevier Science (forthcoming in 2006).