Groundwater is a strategic resource in the European Union, where 55% of the domestic demand is met by ground water. Despite its importance for urban supply, agriculture is the main groundwater user in Mediterranean countries with about 72% of total estimated groundwater abstraction. In Spain, about 30% of the total irrigated area is supplied by groundwater.
A global inventory of groundwater use in agriculture conducted by FAO indicates that almost 40% of the global irrigated area is now reliant on groundwater. Widespread and largely unregulated groundwater withdrawals by agriculture have resulted in depletion and degradation of some of the world’s most accessible and high-quality aquifers.
The impacts of climate change for the water resources in southern Europe and northern Africa include a decrease in rainfall, with will pose major impacts on underground water bodies, food security, soils sustainability and reduction of the fertile surface available for food production.
One of the most critical issues on groundwater management is data scarcity. Big Data and Enhanced Information Systems (EIS) are key to overcome this obstacle by providing users and managers useful, precise and sound data and information. New and more reliable data can improve the accuracy and trustfulness of the models used for groundwater assessment and groundwater management. Furthermore, better knowledge of groundwater resources will be even more necessary in the near future when considering the increasing uncertainty on water availability due to climate and global change.
The eGROUNDWATER solution
The main goal of eGROUNDWATER is to develop enhance information systems that improve the knowledge on groundwater systems in the Mediterranean region and enable the design of innovative adaptation strategies for its sustainable and efficient management.
Traditional means of data gathering are complemented by innovative techniques such as earth observation systems (drones, remote sensing), automatic sensors (soil moisture capacitance FDR, surface renewal), use of tools based on Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) (e.g. mobile apps), and the engagement of citizens and stakeholders into measurement collection (citizen science).
New opportunities for enhanced information systems can support better exchange and use of information and knowledge between stakeholders, modellers and decision-makers on the status of the groundwater systems and possible management strategies. Engagement in citizen science can provide in-depth learning opportunities and promote the users’ ability to understand and deal with variability and uncertainties in complex issues such as groundwater management.
The steps that sustain this general goal of eGROUNDWATER are the following:
- To evaluate information systems on groundwater resources and uses in PRIMA-PS countries (Morocco, Portugal, Algeria and Spain) and identify gaps in information collection and post-processing to enhance information systems.
- To develop innovative ICT-based tools for enhanced information acquisition using citizen science techniques.
- To improve existing groundwater modelling tools and enabling the use of improved models.
- To develop improved participatory groundwater management strategies, supported by the enhanced information system (EIS) and groundwater flow modelling, and management tools.
- To analyse the potential socio-economic impacts examining how it may affect the ways in which water is shared among users; how rules are enforced and how users, managers and other stakeholders learn and interact with each other.
- To assess the institutional transitions and capacity building actions required to reverse current unsustainable practices’ effects and to encourage the participation of stakeholders and use of different data and sources of information.
- To apply the ICT-based tool in PRIMA-PS countries and to study the potential for replication in other case study areas.
The overall objective of eGROUNDWATER is to support sustainable participatory groundwater management in the Mediterranean regions through the design, testing and assessment of enhanced information systems (EIS).
Innovative EISs integrating citizen science and ICT-based tools will be designed and tested to improve the understanding of groundwater systems and, with the support of modelling and participatory approaches, engage stakeholders in the co-development of sustainable groundwater.
Citizen science and ICT-based enhanced information systems for groundwater assessment, modelling and sustainable participatory management.
IIAMA – Universitat Politècnica de València (SPAIN)