Stakeholder dialogue “Trace Substance Strategy of the German Federal Government“

Organisation, implementation and evaluation of a stakeholder dialogue


Substances found in very small concentrations in water are defined as trace substances or micropollutants. These substances can have a negative effect on aquatic eco-systems even at very low concentrations and have a detrimental affect on their good ecological status in accordance with the Water Framework Directive.

In order to reduce the emissions of these substances to water, measures are possible in principle along the entire life cycle of the affected substances from source (substance avoidance/production-integrated environmental protection), when using the products, to downstream, end-of-pipe measures when disposing of them. The effectiveness and efficiency of these measures can vary considerably. At the same time, they must consider basic principles of environmental policy such as the polluter-pays principle or the principle of pollution prevention.

Given this background, the BMUB (German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety) has launched a stakeholder dialogue to develop a strategy for dealing with trace substances in water at a national level. The objective is to identify a balanced mix of source-based, use-based and end-of-pipe measures that are effective and as efficient as possible. This catalogue of measures is intended to form the basis of a national trace substance strategy.



The Federal Environment Agency commissioned the Fraunhofer ISI (project coordination, specialist support for the process and its contents) and the IKU GmbH (designing the process and moderating) to prepare and conduct a stakeholder dialogue to develop a strategy for dealing with anthropogenic trace substances in water at national level. The Federal Environment Agency carries out the project in close coordination with the Federal Ministry for the Environment.

The contents, design of the dialogue process and naming the organisations to be involved were based on exploratory discussions. At a kick-off event with stakeholders, federal ministries, authorities and state government representatives, the results of these exploratory discussions, the background, objectives and methodological cornerstones of the stakeholder dialogue were presented, the participants’ expectations concerning the dialogue were formulated, and the framework conditions and rules of the dialogue process were agreed.

Expert workshops were held on the most important fields of action in the life cycle of trace substances: mitigation strategies at source and during use, possibilities for end-of-pipe measures and an additional workshop to amalgamate the results. A basic principle followed was to seek stakeholder consensus. Any minority votes were documented.

The Policy Paper now available contains jointly agreed recommendations (incl. minority votes) and their brief explanation as a contribution to defining political priorities in the field of trace substances for the next legislative period. A subsequent process will specify and implement the strategy to reduce the emissions of trace substances to water.



2016 - 2021


  • German Federal Environment Ageny (UBA)
  • Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB)


  • IKU GmbH