Sustainable Groundwater Management: A Comparative Study of Local Policy Changes and Ecosystem Services in South Africa and Germany

Kathrin Knüppe*, Claudia Pahl-Wostl, Joanne Vinke-de Kruijf

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Groundwater-dependent ecosystem services provide benefits to human well-being and play a key role in regulating ecosystem processes and functions. Improving groundwater management is of fundamental importance to reduce ecological trade-offs and to avoid long-term negative consequences for societies. In this context, local groundwater policies as well as multi-level governance processes play a key role. This article provides an improved understanding of how local policies change in response to social-ecological drivers and how these changes contribute to the sustainable provision of groundwater-dependent ecosystem services. Within this context, we analyze recent changes in local groundwater policies in the Sandveld region (South Africa) and the Spreewald region (Germany) from a multi-level governance perspective. In both cases a combination of drivers - in particular ecological degradation experienced at the local level and socio-political transformation - led to changes of local groundwater policies. A positive impact of these changes is expected, but not yet visible. The studied policies consider the complexity of groundwater functions and the different users depending on them. However, they do not explicitly mention ecosystem services and ignore important ecological processes and functions. Therefore, we conclude that groundwater management could become more sustainable by taking ecosystem services and stakeholder interests more explicitly into account in local policy processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-72
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental policy and governance
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Ecosystem services
  • Germany
  • Groundwater
  • Local policies
  • Multi-level governance
  • South Africa


Dive into the research topics of 'Sustainable Groundwater Management: A Comparative Study of Local Policy Changes and Ecosystem Services in South Africa and Germany'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this