Advancing the Implementation of Protective Measures for Drinking Water Sources in Sweden
Licentiate thesis, 2022

The world’s drinking water sources are under growing pressure due to human activities, including infrastructure projects, agriculture, climate change, and the ever-increasing need for freshwater. Although there is a strong call to protect our source waters instead of increasing treatment efficiency at the drinking water treatment plant, the extent of protection measures is often hotly debated. A variety of challenges hinder the design and deployment of measures since their implementation is not simply a technocratic exercise but is ingrained within cultural, political, and ecological considerations. These challenges include competing interests of stakeholders, a multitude of potential hazards towards the water source, the complexity of risk assessments, the inherent uncertainty of the natural system and future conditions, and a lack of capacity and resources, especially for small drinking water systems.

The overarching aim of this thesis is to improve the implementation of water protection measures for drinking water sources in Sweden. The thesis shows how effective management of water sources can be improved by considering drinking water protection as a spatial planning problem. It illustrates how knowledge of spatial planning can be integrated with a set of theories, concepts, and methods to address some of the critical challenges affecting the implementation of water protection measures. Special attention is dedicated to the concept and methods of ecosystem services assessment, the theory of environmental justice, the methods of risk and uncertainty assessment, and the experience with the inclusion of traditional knowledge in spatial planning.

The findings indicate that the implementation of water protection measures could improve by engaging with more modern theories of spatial planning. It provides a method to comprehensively and efficiently map the many benefits that drinking water sources provide to society through the adaptation of the ecosystem services framework. Furthermore, a broader range of consequences towards water system services is accounted for with the newly developed risk assessment method improving the representativeness of the landscape complexity. Lastly, this work shows that knowledge of distributional justice could be used for the prioritization of water protection measures.

Future research will address the remaining challenges with the integration of uncertainties, quantitative risk assessments and interregional learning. The research will represent a significant step towards the effective implementation of drinking water protection measures in Sweden.

water protection

mitigation measures

spatial planning


surface water

drinking water

risk assessment

SB-S393, seminar room, Sven Hultins Gata 6, Samhällsbyggnad I-II
Opponent: Ursula McKnight, SMHI, Sweden


Nadine Gärtner


Gärtner N., Rosén L., Lindhe A. Socio-economic disparities in the supply of drinking water in a Swedish region

Subject Categories

Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

Water Engineering

Environmental Sciences

Lic / Architecture and Civil Engineering / Chalmers University of Technology: 2022:6



SB-S393, seminar room, Sven Hultins Gata 6, Samhällsbyggnad I-II


Opponent: Ursula McKnight, SMHI, Sweden

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