BMBF - Collaborative research project in its funding area ReWaM: Parametrization and quantification of groundwater ecosystem services as a basis of sustainable water resource management”

Subproject 2B: Indicator parameters for evaluation of the microbiological state and activity of anaerobic ground water”


Research partners:

  • Coordination: Helmholtz Zentrum München GmbH, Institut für Grundwasserökologie, Neuherberg
  • DVGW Technologiezentrum Wasser - TZW, Karlsruhe,
  • Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen, Gießen
  • Bayerisches Landesamt für Umwelt, Zentrale Analytik, Trinkwasser, Augsburg und Hof
  • Gelsenwasser AG, Gelsenkirchen
  • Westfälische Wasser- und Umweltanalytik GmbH, Gelsenkirchen
  • Boden- und Grundwasserlabor GmbH, Dresden
  • Institut für Grundwasserökologie IGÖ GmbH, Landau
  • Limco International GmbH, Konstanz


BMBF – Federal Ministry of Education and Research
Duration:June 2015 – December 2018

project management / project work:

Dr. B. Bendinger /  Anne Madeleine Trimbach, M. Sc.


In Germany, groundwater is the most important resource for drinking water. Due to land use changes, river development, extreme weather events and substance deposition, the quality and availability of groundwater is at risk. To encounter this trend it is essential to develop and standardize new concepts and tools to evaluate the ecological status and the self-cleaning potential of water. Only this allows for a sustainable resource management of groundwater on a regional scale.

The aim of this multidisciplinary project is to develop methods and biological-ecological concepts which are applicable for groundwater monitoring in water management practice. After comprehensive testing and standardization these will be provided to environmental authorities and water management organizations as a modular system. The main tasks of this project network are:

  • Identification and implementation of ecological criteria for evaluating the ecological status of groundwater
  • Standardization of sampling techniques for ecological indicators and development of an online-measurement-system to evaluate the ecotoxicological effects of pollutants
  • Evaluation of the ecosystem services of chosen groundwater systems with regard to extreme weather events
  • Evaluation and validation of concepts and methods at chosen project sites differing in land use
  • Development of guidelines for water management practice
Methodology of subproject Hamburg:

Two third of the drinking water in Germany is produced from groundwater of which a big part is anaerobic groundwater, i.e. it contains no free oxygen and varying concentrations of reduced compounds. These can precipitate upon contact with oxygen from air, thus leading to alterations of a water sample. Therefore, standard methods for examination of water must be adapted to these special conditions. The objective is to obtain a compilation of robust and practicable methods for the evaluation of the microbiological status of anaerobic groundwater.

  • Selection of meaningful indicator parameters for use in anaerobic groundwater
  • Development, adaptation and standardization of selected methods based on anaerobic groundwater samples from the Fuhrberger Feld
  • Comparative measurements between project partners
  • Quantification and characterization of total and biologically degradable organic carbon

Anaerobic groundwater can fulfill an important ecosystem service for the reduction of high anthropogenic nitrate input into near-surface groundwater resulting in low-nitrate groundwater for drinking water production. The responsible process for this is microbiological denitrification. The objective is to determine activity and resilience of the pyrite-dependent nitrate reduction.

  • Establishing of a laboratory test for the measurement of the autotrophic denitrification potential in groundwater samples from the Fuhrberger Feld (activity test)
  • Comparison of the activity measurements with the abundance of denitrifying bacteria or denitrification enzymes with molecular biology
  • Determination of the most important denitrifying bacteria
  • Effects of selected pollutants on the autotrophic denitrification potential in laboratory tests for the evaluation of the sensitivity of this ecosystem service

Associated partner of the subproject is the utility enercity, Hannover with its groundwater abstraction field Fuhrberger Feld where the groundwater samples will be taken.