BMBF: Drought early warning systems for carbonate aquifers (GRaCCe)

Quantification of resilience of water resources in carbonate aquifers to drought conditions

Carbonate aquifers are widespread throughout the Middle East and represent important water resources. Due to their high hydraulic conductivity, low storage coefficient, and thus low storage capacity, they are sensitive to droughts.

The volume of water stored in the water-unsaturated zone can be considerable, especially if thick vadose zones exist. As water shortages are becoming more and more frequent due to climate change, the understanding and prediction of droughts is becoming a more and more important.

Furthermore, a smart management of the water stored in the vadose zone can reduce the impact of dry periods on water resources, and thus the intensity of droughts.


The research project GRaCCE is focusing on the quantification and forecast of short and long-term droughts under Mediterranean climate. The project combines:

  • hydrogeophysical measurements at a field site in Rüdersdorf (Brandenburg) to identify optimal monitoring techniques to quantify water fluxes in the unsaturated zone of karst aquifers
  • large-scale numerical modelling of recharge and groundwater flow modeling and
  • data assimilation methods to provide an integrated drought early warning system for the Western Mountain Aquifer located in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Infiltration in the vadose zone

Figure 1: Investigated vadose zone of the karst aquifer and tranfer site Rüdersdorf.

Pathways within the vadose zone

Figure 2: flow of water along preferential pathways within the vadose zone.

Long-term drought risk assessment

Figure 2: Long-term drought risk assessment workflow

Illustration GraCCE

figure 4: Ilustration GRaCCE

Project details

Project coordination

University of Göttingen
TU Berlin

Lead: Prof. Dr. Irina Engelhardt
PhD associate: Paul Hepach

Other national partners

Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ
VisDat geodatentechnologie GmbH

International partners

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, IL
Hydrological Service Israel, IL
Hydro-Engineering Consultancy, PS
Palestinian Water Authority, PS
Palestinian Hydrology Group for Water and Environmental Resources Development, PS
Al al-Bayt Universität, JO


The project is sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the Middle East Regional Water Technology Cooperation Program (MOST).

Funding code:

Project duration: 2021-2024