regulate – Sustainable Groundwater Management in Europe

The junior research group regulate, led by ISOE, investigates current challenges to Europe’s groundwater management against the background of acute drought conditions, ongoing pollution, increasing conflicts and complex institutional settings. The team of researchers from natural and social sciences develops strategies for sustainable management of groundwater on different governance levels.

Research approach

The scientists will use their research to generate new knowledge to better understand how groundwater bodies in Europe are impaired – from a hydrological, geographical, ethnological and ecological perspective. In this regard, the project investigates telecouplings, i.e., remote effects that lead to problems of quality and availability locally, but which originate in other regions due to socio-economic and political interdependencies. In these remote effects, the project focuses in particular on nitrate pollution and droughts and analyses conflicts, norms and values in dealing with the invisible resource groundwater. The junior research group works with stakeholders in case studies in Europe to generate new local knowledge and draw comprehensive conclusions for appropriate management. These conclusions have the potential to be applied in Europe as well as in other regions worldwide.


Groundwater is the most important source of drinking water worldwide and a central resource for food production. As a habitat for special animal organisms, it is also characterised by a unique biodiversity. Despite their important role in ecosystem health and for human well-being, groundwater bodies are threatened by climate change, overuse and pollution. Although Europe has a comprehensive legal framework in the form of the Water Framework Directive, the goals of a good quantitative and chemical status by 2027 will probably not be achieved comprehensively. The reasons may be found in the interaction of regionally varying availability of groundwater, unsustainable practices of groundwater use and outdated rights of use.

Research and project partners

  • University Koblenz Landau, Institute for Environmental Sciences
  • Goethe University Frankfurt, Institute of Physical Geography
  • Goethe University Frankfurt, Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology
  • Trier University, Governance and Sustainability Lab

Practice partners

The junior research group follows a transdisciplinary research approach and thus collaborates with stakeholders from the water management sector, agriculture, nature conservation, industry and authorities on the local and European levels.


The junior research group “regulate – regulation of groundwater in telecoupled social-ecological systems” is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the program “Research for Sustainable Development (FONA)”. The regulate project is part of the funding measure “SOEF – Social-ecological Research” in the funding area “Junior Research Groups in Social-Ecological Research”. 




Kuhn, David/Robert Lütkemeier/Fanny Frick-Trzebitzky/Linda Söller/Kristiane Fehrs (2024): Infrastructural lock-ins in the temporal and spatial development of a long-distance water transfer in Germany. Journal of Hydrology 634 (131070)

Sarkar, Priyanka/Robert Lütkemeier (2024): Unveiling the importance of small-scale and seasonal wetlands: policy imeratives for groundwater sustainability in India. Current Science 126 (10), 1207-1208

Söller, Linda/Dženeta Hodžic/Robert Lütkemeier (2024): Water Futures on Krk Island. Guiding Principles for achieving a Sustainable Water-Tourism-Nexus. DOI 10.5281/zenodo.10907296. Groundwater Dimensions, 1. Frankfurt am Main: ISOE - Institute for Social-Ecological Research

Söller, Linda/Dženeta Hodžic/Robert Lütkemeier (2024): Buducnosti vode na otoku Krku. Smjernice za postizanje održive vodno-turisticke mreže. U suradnji sa interesnim grupama. 10.5281/zenodo.12542334 . Groundwater Dimensions, 1. Frankfurt am Main

Söller, Linda/Fanny Frick-Trzebitzky/Robert Lütkemeier/David Kuhn/Anne Jäger/Jörg von Beyme/Maria Diebes/Jan Donner/Armin Hoch/Steffen Hooper/Toni Meier/Jutta Parnieske-Pasterkamp/Laura Ritter/Martin Schneppmüller/Torsten Wagner (2024): Leitbild 2040 Grundwasser - Ziele und Maßnahmen für ein nachhaltiges Grundwassermanagement im Landkreis Mansfeld-Südharz. Frankfurt am Main: ISOE - Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung

Frick-Trzebitzky, Fanny/Rossella Alba/Kristiane Fehrs (2023): Adaptive governance as bricolage. Geographica Helvetica 78 (3), 397-409

Frick-Trzebitzky, Fanny/Robert Lütkemeier (2023): Groundwater messages to the UN: from (in)visibility to envisioning. ISOE Blog Soziale Ökologie. Krise - Kritik - Gestaltung

Acksel, Britta/Dženeta Hodžic/Catharina Lüder (2022): Knox Hannah (2020) Thinking Like a Climate: Governing a City in Times of Environmental Change. Sciene & Technology Studies 35 (1), 80-82

Curak, Hana/Dženeta Hodžic (2022): Daytonitis in Practice: (Post-)Socialist (Dis-)Continuities in Bosnia and Herzegovina's Energy and Environment Sector. Berliner Blätter (85), 87-98

Frick-Trzebitzky, Fanny (2022): Fanny Frick-Trzebitzky, "Groundwater in distal relations: visible and invisible in multiple ways". Yearbook 2022/2023 European Water Association. Hennef: European Water Association, 47-50

Frick-Trzebitzky, Fanny/Thomas Kluge/Stefan Stegemann/Martin Zimmermann (2022): Capacity development for water reuse in in-formal partnerships in northern Namibia. Front Water 4, 906407

Hodžic, Dženeta/Fanny Frick-Trzebitzky/Zoran Nakic (2022): Projekt REGULATE - novi pristup u ocuvanju podzemnih voda. Hrvatska Vodoprivreda (239), 22-27

Lütkemeier, Robert/Linda Söller/Fanny Frick-Trzebitzky (2022): Anthropogenic Pressures on Groundwater. Encyclopedia of Inland Waters (Second Edition) 3, 548-559

Pande, Saket/Melissa Haeffner/Günter Blöschl/Mohammad Faiz Alam/Cyndi Castro/Giuliano Di Baldassarre/Fanny Frick-Trzebitzky/Rick Hogeboom/Heidi Kreibich/Jenia Mukherjee/Aditi Mukherji/Fernando Nardi/Marcus Nüsser/Fuqiang Tian/Pieter van Oel/Murugesu Sivapalan (2022): Never Ask for a Lighter Rain but a Stronger Umbrella. Front Water 3, 822334

Frick-Trzebitzky, Fanny/Robert Lütkemeier (2021): Groundwater: De-localized Resources in the Anthropocene. ISOE Blog Soziale Ökologie. Krise - Kritik - Gestaltung

Lütkemeier, Robert/Fanny Frick-Trzebitzky/Dženeta Hodžic/Anna Jäger/David Kuhn/Linda Söller (2021): Telecoupled Groundwaters: New Ways to Investigate Increasingly De-Localized Resources. Water 13 (20), 2906

Project management

Head of the Practices and Infrastructures Hub, Head of the Junior Research Group regulate
+49 69 7076919-55
Head of the Research Unit Water and Land Use, Head of Junior Research Group regulate
+49 69 7076919-58