We investigate future water conflicts in Germany using an inter- and transdisciplinary approach together with potentially affected and interested actors. Through a semi-qualitative system analysis, we aim to make the uncertainty and complexities associated with water conflicts tangible. To achieve this goal, we have chosen to use cross-impact balance analysis (CIB) because it simultaneously supports the construction of qualitative future scenarios (Weimer-Jehle 2006) and the design of policies (policy design, Kosow et al. 2022). We will apply CIB – and this is an innovation – in the form of participatory modeling and develop a simulation game (web application). This simulation game will help actors* to anticipate conflicts and develop coherent strategies under future uncertainty.

For this purpose, we develop three case studies: Module A “Conflicts of objectives in a river basin” (focus on industry, urban development and reservoirs); Module B “Conflicts of irrigation” (focus on the increasing water demand of viticulture, agriculture and urban greenery); Module C “Water conflicts in large-scale projects” (focus on opencast coal mining in a transboundary environment). In all three cases, we first develop qualitative models of possible future water conflicts together with local and external experts. Second, we use these models in simulation games to illustrate the consequences of our own and others’ decisions. This supports the development of conflict mitigation strategies and policy mixes that are robust to a range of possible future developments.

The workshop version of the simulation will be co-designed in all three modules, tested in university teaching, and finally made available to interested experts. We also conduct cross-case system analyses on future water conflicts in Germany and on possible conflict mitigation strategies. In doing so, we consider different scenarios of climate change and other uncertain contexts. Our monitoring group complements our work with the perspective of different (natural) scientific disciplines. Overall, we are testing a semi-quantitative and software-based approach to systems analysis that is transferable to other topic areas and conflicting goals.

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