Climate change and water resources management
ARC is in the process of developing research lines on strategic topics in order to utilize synergies among the ARC members and with partnering universities. Also, these research lines should assist in making connections with utilities and other stakeholders. One of the lines to be developed is Climate Change and Water Resources Management (CC-WRM). To explore opportunities for collaboration and develop the research line a workshop was held at KWR on June 28-29, 2011. The outcome of the workshop forms the basis of the CC-WRM research line described below.
In countries along the Mediterranean and in South-East Europe the availability of sufficient water for agriculture, industry and drinking water supply is becoming an increasingly pressing problem. On the one hand, water availability is diminishing due to overexploitation of water resources (both surface water and groundwater). However, in many cases the problems are exacerbated by climate change. Warming temperatures, combined with changes in rainfall and runoff patterns increase the frequency and intensity of droughts and floods. Regions that rely heavily upon surface water (rivers, streams, and lakes) could be particularly affected as runoff becomes more variable, and more demand is placed on groundwater to overcome periods of droughts. Salinization of river deltas and coastal aquifers, due to the interplay of rising sea level and low river flows, is another major consequence of climate change. Due to its obvious impacts on the hydrological cycle, climate change is highly relevant to the water sector. Current strategies for water resources management will have to be reconsidered in order to adapt to the impacts of climate change, in the context of other drivers, such as population growth and increasing urbanization. Although quick wins may come from demand-side measures (e.g. reducing leakage, increasing irrigation efficiency), supply-side measures will also be necessary in many cases. Water technology can offer promising solutions in this respect.
EEA, 2005b. Vulnerability and adaptation to climate change in Europe. EEA Technical report No 7/2005.
State of the Art
All ARC members share the vision that Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) is a promising technology to increase water availability in water stressed areas, to overcome periods of drought, and to stabilise or even reverse salinization of coastal aquifers. Moreover, MAR could be the key technique in making alternative water resources available, such as reuse of communal effluents for agriculture, industry and even indirect potable reuse. However, the practical application of MAR is still limited because of technological issues (e.g. well clogging, bell drift), sustainability concerns (water quality impacts, use of energy) and a general unfamiliarity with the technology, leading to societal and political concern. In order to bring the technology into practice, these issues have to be addressed by practical research. The ARC partners are committed to carry out this research, both as individual institutes under their own national science programming and as a team., e.g. under the current EU FP7 Programme.
Added value of ARC
The ARC partners feature a wide expertise in water resources management and water technology, and even more important, the combination of these different disciplines. KWR has vast expertise in aquifer storage and recovery techniques, which is practised in the Dutch dune area for over 50 years. IWW is knowledgeable in reactive transport modelling, CETaqua is leading in water reuse projects and LNEC has wide operational experience with MAR systems, based on two pilot sites. By joining forces, a strong consortium emerges with expertise on field studies, laboratory experience and mathematical modelling. The consortium aims to support water utilities with knowledge, research facilities and tools (e.g. guidelines, best practices) to adapt to water scarcity, droughts and salinization, through proven technological concepts.