A new partnership between the Berlin-based Institute for Climate Protection, Energy and Mobility (IKEM) and the University Institute of Water Research and Environmental Sciences (IUACA) of the University of Alicante, Spain, aims to accelerate research on water resources. The institutions formalised the collaboration agreement on 14 September in Alicante following a joint seminar held with the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon (ICS, Portugal).
Collaboration between the research institutes will facilitate ‘the exchange of knowledge and researchers, the production of joint publications and seminars, and the participation as partners in European and national research projects,’ said Dr Andrés Molina Giménez, deputy director of IUACA and a professor of administrative law.
IKEM and IUACA plan to work together to analyse regulatory approaches to protect water supplies, particularly within the context of international resource management, said Professor Dr Michael Rodi, founder and director of IKEM.
‘IKEM and the University of Alicante are ideal partners, as both take an interdisciplinary and international approach to governance issues,’ Rodi said. ‘I anticipate that there will be excellent opportunities for the institutes to promote water governance topics at an international level, especially at summits like COP.’
Mariana Moreno Kuhnke, a research associate in IKEM’s Energy Law Department, earned a master’s degree in Environmental Law and Sustainability from the University of Alicante and played a key role in spearheading the collaboration between the institutes. ‘This partnership offers an exciting opportunity for us to work together on topics of shared interest,’ she said.
As climate change intensifies, the availability and distribution of water are becoming increasingly important issues. Changes in precipitation patterns, algal growth from rising temperatures, and other climate impacts are expected to reduce the amount of water that can be used for drinking and for agriculture.
‘Climate change is producing a greater frequency of extreme hydrological events, including floods and droughts,’ said Molina Giménez. ‘Water scarcity is a foreseeable scenario in many regions of the European continent, so it is essential to address adequate water regulation and planning. The University of Alicante and IKEM share a concern for the protection of natural resources in the current context of climate change, and both have great research potential in these areas.’
Water – and, in particular, the link between water and climate change – is a growing area of research at IKEM. The institute recently established a Water Working Group to conduct research on key water-related topics, such as the impact of floods on cities and the lack of a regulatory framework for ‘sponge cities’. Collaboration with IUACA offers an opportunity for IKEM to further extend its research in this area.
‘We can learn a lot from our Spanish colleagues, especially because they have been dealing with the water problems caused by drought for much longer than we have,’ said Judith Schäfer, head of the Energy Law Department at IKEM, who organised the joint seminar in collaboration with Moreno Kuhnke.
The seminar, titled ‘Smart Water Governance, Social Strategies and Regulatory Approaches’, featured presentations by representatives of IUACA, IKEM and ICS, who shared their current research on water resources.
The seminar opened with remarks by the vice-president of international affairs for the University of Alicante, the dean of the University of Alicante Law School, and the director of IUACA, Dr Joaquin Melgarejo Moreno. Molina Giménez, Rodi, Schäfer and Moreno Kuhnke were speakers at the event. Additional presenters included Susan Wilms, IKEM’s managing director; Dr Antonio Aledo and Dr Guadalupe Ortiz Noguera, professors of sociology at the University of Alicante; and Dr Carla Maria Gomes, researcher at ICS. Miguel Fernández, head of the Water Cycle Department for the Provincial Government of Alicante, also spoke.
The cooperation agreement between IKEM and IUACA was signed following the event.