GLOWA-Elbe I: Global Change Impact on the Environment and Society in the Elbe Region


O. Zwirner
M. Karkuschke


05/2000 − 04/2003


Joint Research Project with 19 partners from German universities and scientific institutions, funded by the German Ministry for Education and Research



The major objective of GLOWA-Elbe is the development of integrated strategies for an anticipatory and sustainable management of the water cycle in the Elbe River Basin under conditions of global climate change and global change in the societies and economies concerned. The UFZ department Economics, Sociology and Law contributes to the spatial sub-projects on the total Elbe River Basin and the smaller Basin of the Upper Spree River. The conflicts in these basins are analyzed and management strategies are evaluated by means of an integrated interdisciplinary multi-criteria assessment procedure. This method has been development for small scale application in the Torgau project and is now improved to deal with larger spatial entities and more complex problems as well.

The sub-project Upper Spree River refers to the Lausitz Region, which has been highly modified by long-term lignite mining. With the collapse of the mining industry after German reunification a water allocation conflict arose in the early 1990s and still persist due to the reduced mining-related pumping of groundwater. Today, the water requirements of the remediation activities are in competition with the water demands of the Spreewald wetland and those of many economic water users. The problem becomes even more complicated by the fact that the power of decision about water rights is unequally distributed between the authorities of the German states involved. This aspect requires an initial institutional and stakeholder analysis in order to identify the agents involved, their diverging interests and the policy alternatives capable to resolve the conflict. Furthermore, the economists of the UFZ work together with hydrologists to jointly model the economic and hydrological effects of management strategies. The final evaluation takes place in cooperation with the decision makers and stakeholders, using an integrated participatory multi-criteria decision aid approach. This way of applied research makes it possible that research results can be used directly in practice.

The sub-project on the Elbe River Basin examines strategies for sustainable river basin management under changing basic conditions. Applying scenario analyses and interdisciplinary nested modeling approaches the effects of global change and mitigation policies are analyzed with regard to water quality and quantity. In this context the focus is on diffuse agricultural emissions which impede the compliance of environmental quality targets in the Elbe River Basin.