Water 2050 – Sustainable Innovations for Water Management

In the Wasser 2050 project, the team examined sustainable system solutions for water resource management. 

Research approach 

Engineering systems for drinking water, wastewater, waste and energy have so far tended to be sector oriented and mutually independent. In future they will need to become integrated into flexible system solutions. The export opportunities for German water resource management opened up by intelligent system solutions of this kind were examined in 'Water 2050'. Here, scientists applied innovative futurology methods. 

Technology preview and potentials

In this project, the team drew up a technology preview, supported by a Delphi study. In addition, scientists analysed the current potential for export and demand, along with market activity. Together with economic actors and other stakeholders, existing scenarios were extended up until the year 2050. By means of 'backcasting', scientists were then able to look back from the vision to the present day. Practitioners in the field were included in the process of analysing the potential of corresponding innovations and deriving recommended courses of action for a more forward-looking perspective. These recommendations were made available to actors from the fields of politics, business and science. 

Benefits and opportunities of export networks

The team of this project also evaluated the experiences of various networks already established in Germany in order to promote export. To this end, all relevant networks were surveyed as well as companies operating in the sector. Based on the example of the 'Water Resource Management Initiative of North Rhine-Westphalia' and the 'International Dialogue Centre' in Magdeburg, the potentials and barriers of existing networks were subjected to closer analysis. Building on the ensuing recommendations, the 'German Water Partnership' was born as a new network. 


The Millennium Development Goals envisage the proportion of the world's population without access to clean drinking water and hygienic wastewater disposal being halved by the year 2015. On top of this, there is also an enormous need for re-investment and re-structuring in the industrial countries. Growing urbanisation, demographic change, climate change, rising energy prices and global competition demand intelligent, sustainable solutions. 

Project partners

  • Umweltforschungszentrum Leipzig-Halle (UfZ) in der Helmholtz-Gesellschaft
  • Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)


Federal Ministry for Educatin and Research (BMBF)


Kluge, Thomas/Engelbert Schramm (Hg.) (2016): Wasser 2050. Mehr Nachhaltigkeit durch Systemlösungen. München: oekom verlag

Schramm, Engelbert/Thomas Kluge (2016): Wege zu einer nachhaltigen und exportstarken Wasserwirtschaft. ISOE Policy Brief, 4. Frankfurt am Main: ISOE - Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung

Schramm, Engelbert/Thomas Kluge/Silke Beck/Bernd Hansjürgens/Harald Hiessl/Christian Sartorius (2013): Integrierte Systemlösungen als Strategie für eine nachhaltige und exportstarke Wasserwirtschaft. Wasser und Abfall (1/2), 39-44

Kluge, Thomas/Silke Beck/Bernd Hansjürgens/Harald Hiessl/Christian Sartorius/Engelbert Schramm (2012): Wege zu einer nachhaltigen und exportstarken Wasserwirtschaft. Eckpunktepapier und Empfehlungen des Projekts "Wasser 2050". ISOE-Materialien Soziale Ökologie, 35. Frankfurt am Main: ISOE - Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung

Kluge, Thomas (2010): Capacity Development für die exportorientierte Wasserwirtschaft: Bestandsaufnahme der deutschen Aktivitäten für die Eckpunkte für eine koordinierte Strategie. ISOE-Materialien Soziale Ökologie, 32. Frankfurt am Main: ISOE - Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung

Kluge, Thomas/Engelbert Schramm (2009): Wasser 2050 - Chancen für die deutsche Wasserwirtschaft. Landesverbandstagung Nord-Ost 2009 am 28. und 29. Mai 2009. Impulse für die Wasserwirtschaft. Magdeburg: DWA Landesverband Nord-Ost, 47-60


2006/09 – 2009/08