Water – A Vital Field of Research in Germany

The problem of the supply and sustainability of water is not restricted simply to places where there is a shortage. Rather, the question of water–or more specifically, a shortage of water–is an urgent global problem.

We take water from the rivers and seas and pump it from the ground. Without it life, our lives, is not possible. However, climatic and geographical conditions mean that it is unevenly distributed around the world. Also, certain human activities are hugely water usage intensive, such as for e.g. cotton growing, whereas dry-land cropping (where all water requirements come from natural rainfall and ground water) is less so.

This is before we even take into account the world’s growing population and increasing urbanisation. The United Nations forecasts that by 2050 at least one in four people will live in a country suffering from a water shortage.

“It has long been about more than a simple shortage of water, however. Increasingly, we have a problem of quality. Many hundreds of millions of people, especially children, do not have access to clean water”

says Professor Dietrich Borchardt, head of the Aquatic Ecosystem Analysis (ASAM) department at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research UFZ.

Because water is already in tight supply in Mongolia–due to the country’s dry climate–it has been chosen by Professor Dietrich Borchardt, head of the Aquatic Ecosystem Analysis (ASAM) department at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in collaboration with the Leibniz-Institute for Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) as a model region research project. It is hoped that the MoMo (“Integrated Water Resources Management in Central Asia: Model Region Mongolia) project will be able to answer the question of if an how fresh water will be available in the future.

The first important step for the researchers, lead by Professor Borchard is to gather data, in this case along the Kharaa river. These were the key questions to be clarified:

  • How clean is the river?
  • What is the region’s overall level of water consumption?
  • How clean is the drinking water?
  • How is waste disposed of?

With the aid of this data, the scientists are now able to implement a new water management concept. They are developing new waste water systems, a systematic means of checking water readings and information for schools and administrative bodies.

The project has benefited from water research in Germany over the past 10 years. In the past this research has been very technically focused, however, more recently there has been a greater focus on the ecological, economic, social and legal aspects concerning water.

The MoMo Project is coordinated by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), the MoMo project is helping to preserve Mongolia’s scarce water resources. On the German side, the project consortium comprises not only the UFZ, but also the Leibniz-Institute for Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB), the Advanced System Technology (AST) Branch of the Fraunhofer Institute of Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation (Fraunhofer IOSB) and the German Development Institute (DIE).
http://www.iwrm-momo.de

Photo credit: “www.colourbox.com”. Material used in the preparation of this article has been drawn from Research in Germany / Land of Ideas.

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