In August 2014, the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD), or German Academic Exchange Service awarded me a grant to study how environmental knowledge and other factors in play in Munich, Germany influence sustainable water conservation practices. Munich is the capital city of Bavaria, a state in southeast Germany. The city has over 1.4 million citizens and over 2.5 million in the greater Munich area. It is home to two major research universities and is recognized for its innovative approach to technologies.
The research revealed some surprising results: Munich does not engage the type of innovative water technology in use in many other cities around the world. With average rainfall of over 38 inches a year, and a secure, plentiful, and pure water supply, Munich does not have a shortage of water. Yet, citizens and officials are well aware of how important it is to protect their water, and public awareness campaigns regarding water were abundant. Rather than collecting or reusing water, the city concentrates on education about how to keep water sources clean, emphasizing how integral it is to have successful conservation easements and aquifer protection plans in place. And, because the German Federal Government operates water policy from a top-down approach, requiring purity at the source for their drinking water, technological emphasis is heavier at wastewater treatment plants and in the industrial sector. Also, the Isar River Reclamation Project, which re-opened the river channel to allow for seasonal flooding events, has had a positive effect on education about the how natural flows decrease water insecurity and allow positive ecosystem services to work in urban areas.
My thesis research examines how conservation approaches in the Texas State Water Plan and the new funding mechanisms in the state will be implemented. I will use the research in the Munich case study, along with others from innovative programs in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK. The probable consequences of this research include recommendations for public policy, and incentives for inter-agency collaboration, as well as next steps in action-research.