Pharmaceutical Agents in the Water Cycle - START

  • Project team:

    Bechmann, Gotthard (Project leader); Christian Büscher

  • Funding:

    Das Forschungsvorhaben wird vom Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF) im Förderschwerpunkt "Sozial-ökologische Forschung" gefördert.

  • Start date:


  • End date:


  • Project partners:

    Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung (ISOE), Institut für Umweltmedizin und Krankenhaushygiene am Universitätsklinikum Freiburg, J. W. Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main Fachbereichen Geowissenschaften/Geographie und Biowissenschaften.

  • Research group:

    Knowledge society and knowledge policy

Project description

Pharmaceutical Agents in the Water Cycle

The presence of pharmaceutical agents in the water cycle poses an unpredictable and only partly controllable risk for drinking water supply systems. The conditions for the emergence and the dynamics of this systemic risk are as yet unidentified. Of particular interest are the roles and perspectives of the different actors: How do they perceive the risk and how does this perception influence the recognition of need for action and the implementation of management strategies? The research project "Management Strategies for Pharmaceuticals in Drinking Water (start)" addresses this problem with the aim to integrate different sectoral measures for the reduction of emissions of pharmaceuticals into a systemic management strategy.

Strategy Approaches

Preventive management strategies for pharmaceutical agents in drinking water can act on three individual sectors each with different time horizons:

  • Technical Approach (short- to mid-term): Conventional procedures for sewage treatment and drinking water processing are largely replaced by innovative procedures (e.g. membrane filtration, reversed osmosis).
  • Conduct Approach (mid- to long-term): Present prescription practices, use and disposal patterns of pharmaceuticals change towards a higher environmental sensibility.
  • Agent Approach (long-term): Innovations in sustainable pharmacy lead to the substitution of problematic agents by those which are simultaneously optimised for activity in humans and degradability in the environment.


Journal Articles
Keil, F.; Bechmann, G.; Kummerer, K.; Schramm, E.
Systemic risk governance for pharmaceutical residues in drinking water
2008. GAIA - Ökologische Perspektiven für Wissenschaft und Gesellschaft, 17, 355–61 
Bechmann, G.
Risikokommunikation? Risikokommunikation!
2008. Statusseminar des BMBF ’Strategien zum Umgang mit systemischen Risiken’, Frankfurt, 15.Februar 2008 
Bechmann, G.
Vorsorgeprinzip und Risikokommunikation
2008. Vortrag beim Workshop des START-Projekts: Risikokommunikation (2008), Frankfurt am Main, Germany, March 4, 2008 
Bechmann, G.
Systemische Risiken - neuere Ansätze in der Risikoforschung
2007. Conf.’Technology Assessment’, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moskva, Russia, October 8-9, 2007 
Bechmann, G.
The politics of uncertainty - the case of BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) in Europe
2007. 4th International Symposium on Risk Management and Cyber-Informatics (RMCI 2007), Orlando, FL, USA, July 12–15, 2007 
Conference Papers
Bechmann, G.
The uncertainties of risk communication in knowledge society
2006. Safety and reliability for managing risk : Proceedings of the European Safety and Reliability Conference (ESREL 2006), Estoril, Portugal, 18. - 22.09.2006. Ed.: G.C. Soares, 1249–1255, Taylor and Francis 
Bechmann, G.
The paradox of precaution - the precautionary principle between norm and procedure
2006. Interdisciplinary Workshop ’Science Policy Guidelines for Risk Analysis’, Bremen, 6.-7.Oktober 2006 
Bechmann, G.
The uncertainties of risk communication in knowledge society
2006. Guedes Soares, C. [Hrsg.] Safety and Reliability for Managing Risk : Proc.of the European Safety and Reliability Conf. (ESREL 2006), Estoril, P, September 18-22, 2006 London [u.a.] : Taylor and Francis, 2006 Vol.2, European Safety and Reliability Conference (ESREL 2006), Estoril, Portugal, September 18–22, 2006 


Prof. Dr. Gotthard Bechmann
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)
P.O. Box 3640
76021 Karlsruhe