The availability of sufficient high-quality water in the 21st century requires immediate systemic strategies. The starting signal for the development of solutions for sustainable groundwater and soil management in the North Sea region has now been given on 1 February 2023: more than 60 national and international project partners met for the kick-off of the joint project "Blue Transition", which is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), among others, with several million euros. In the coming days and for the next years, the project partners will further develop their strategies for 16 pilot areas in Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, France and Germany and derive their findings for water associations, farmers, authorities and society. Already the festive event in Hanover, Germany, provided an important platform for exchange with many political guests, such as the State Secretary of the Lower Saxony Ministry of Science and Culture, Professor Joachim Schachtner, member of parliament Dr Frank Schmädeke and the State Representative for Regional Land Development Leine-Weser Frauke Patzke, who gave the welcoming speech.
By changing land use and integrating the management of forests, agricultural land, urban areas, peatlands, wetlands and nature reserves, the project aims to sustainably secure groundwater resources in both the short and long term, ensure the future availability of good quality water, protect natural habitats and contribute to the reduction of CO2 emissions. By developing solutions for integrated water and soil management, taking into account complex interacting factors, the research project serves the objectives of the EU Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the EU Groundwater, Water and Soils Directives, which call for rapid and systematic change. The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) is funding Blue Transition in the Interreg North Sea Programme for three and a half years with over 4.5 million euros. The total budget is over 7 million euros.
The Leibniz Institute for Applied Geophysics, which manages and coordinates the project, organised a kick-off event in the Royal Stables of the Leibniz University of Hannover. Frauke Patzke, State Representative of the Office for Regional Development Leine-Weser, gave the welcoming speech and symbolically handed over the funding notification: "I am very pleased that in the future the Leine-Weser district will be working with so many European partners in the North Sea region on solutions for adapting to the consequences of climate change! A particular concern of mine is to ensure the sustainable availability of water."
After these introductory words, Dr Fanny Frick-Trzebitzky from the Institute for Social-Ecological Research (ISOE) at the Goethe University in Frankfurt introduced the complex Groundwater Governance with her presentation "Groundwater governance - from adaptation to transformation of hydrosocial relations". Lena Hübsch from the Lower Saxony Competence Centre for Climate Change (NIKO) then presented the political perspective.
Following the keynote speeches, the guests were able to exchange ideas among themselves. Further workshops and an excursion to a pilot area near Uelzen are planned for the partner organisations in the coming days at the Leibniz Institute for Applied Geophysics in the Geozentrum Hannover. The consortium consists of a total of 24 partners from six countries and builds on the EU project TOPSOIL, which will be completed in 2021.
In Germany, in addition to LIAG (Hanover), the Oldenburgisch-Ostfriesische Wasserverband (Brake), the Landesamt für Bergbau, Energie und Geologie (Hanover), the Dachverband Feldberegnung Uelzen, the Lower Saxony Chamber of Agriculture (Oldenburg), the Geological Survey for Bremen at the University of Bremen and the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (Hanover) are involved. The consortium links science, government, industry, stakeholders and society to advance and disseminate the implementation of the measures in a transnational and innovative way.