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Mitigation of Water Stress through new Approaches to Integrating Management, Technical, Economic and Institutional Instruments
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The project

Test Sites

Eight Test Sites have been selected in which well defined Case Studies are under consideration for developing adequate new mitigation and option strategies in accordance with the needs and concerns of local stakeholders. The selection has been based on a detailed analysis and characterisation of the Test Sites on the basis of the following criteria:

  • An existing and accessible wealth of existing data on the physical characteristics of the water regions and water management systems.
  • Stakeholders amenable to participatory processes.
  • The types of water stress issues represented include insufficient or failing infrastructure, inappropriate agricultural and lands use practices, industrial pollution, inefficient water use in domestic, agricultural and industrial sectors, pressures from seasonal population changes (tourism), energy demands, etc.
  • Comprehensive representation of the major water stress issues across Europe and North Africa.

The printable version of the Test Sites brochure

The Test Sites selected are located in:
Portugal, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Tunisia and Morocco.

1. Guadiana, Portugal

Geographical and geophysical setting
Portugal and Spain share five river basins, with Spain being, generally, the upstream country and the origin of almost 50% of potential Portuguese water resources. The climate in the Portuguese mainland is Mediterranean temperate with average yearly temperatures of about 14 ºC and precipitation of about 960 mm, with less than 600 mm in the southern Guadiana's basin, where the driest areas (350 mm) occur. The current Portuguese total water storage (7,830 hm3, half for hydroelectric use) is much lower than that of Spain (with a 1:20 minimum ratio for the Guadiana basin), but will soon be strongly increased (+3150 hm3) due to the Alqueva dam (Guadiana basin).
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2. Flumendosa-Mulargia, Italy

Geographical and geophysical setting
The Flumendosa-Mulargia basin is located in the south-eastern part of Sardinia region. The basin (1,824.39 km2), which includes six interconnected reservoirs, supplies water resources in Southern Sardinia for different conflicting uses (domestic, agriculture, industry and energy production) within the same basin and mainly for the distribution network located outside the basin in the Campidano plain. As the majority of Mediterranean areas, it is characterised by water scarcity and quality problems due to drought. The hydrological cycle is influenced both by the geomorphological characteristics of the basin and by the rainfall regime.

Shale rocks characterise the entire zone, with scarce permeability and low transmission losses, and consequent high runoff. Precipitation shows a maritime climate trend: rainfalls are concentrated in autumn and winter, while the summer is extremely dry. The major issues in the area occur because the system is strongly influenced by the Mediterranean semiarid climate, characterised by very long dry period. As it is located in a region facing water scarcity, it is a basin predominantly linked to problems of local water stress. Water scarcity causes several conflicts, which arise in particular in water resource distribution among the different uses. Aquatic ecosystems are linked to water stress phenomena not only in water quantity but also in quality aspects. Under water scarcity conditions every pollution event leads to further reduction of usable water resources. Moreover, water quality is strongly affected by flood events, which cause very fast responses of the catchments, carrying into the aquatic ecosystems high nutrient loadings which cause eutrophication phenomena.
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3. Vecht / Zwarte Water basin, The Netherlands

Geographical and geophysical setting
The Vecht catchment is part of the Rhine basin. The Vecht flows through the Zwarte Water flows into Lake Ijssel, which is situated in the central north of the Netherlands. The Vecht is a middle size river, which originates in Germany. The total length is 167 km, of which 60 km is situated in the Netherlands. The total area of the Zwarte Water catchment is 6,260 km2 of which two thirds are lying in the Netherlands.
The Dutch part of the catchment is used more intensively than the German part. The characterisation below concerns only the Dutch part of the Vecht catchment. Elevation in the area ranges from 0 to 83 m, but the decline of the Vecht itself is just 10 m. The average rainfall in the catchment is 730 mm and ranges from 550 mm in dry years to 1,100 mm in wet years. About 35-40% of the precipitation runs off.

The mean run off at the mouth of the Vecht is 50 m3/s, at low water it is only 5 m3/s and under conditions of high water it is about 300 m3/s. The soil type is mainly sand, and most of the peat soils are situated in the north. Land use in the southern part is predominantly intensive animal husbandry, with growing of grass and maize. In the northern part there is more arable land, with a lot of potato growing. There are several cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants. Furthermore, especially in the north of the catchment, there are some forests and some large lakes in the west. The total population in the (Dutch part of the) catchment is about 1,200,000 people; the population density is about 300/ km2.

The urban areas cover about 10% of the catchment. The main uses of water are agriculture, drinking, and recreation. Human pressures on the aquatic environment are high, both from cities and from intensive agriculture. Discharges from many of the sewage treatment plants are into relatively small waters. Most of the waters in the catchment have been strongly regulatedby normalization and dams. In large parts of the area water inlet from outside the catchment plays an important role for agriculture in the summer. In relatively small areas of about 10-100 km2 there are many interests, as agriculture, urban area, nature, landscape, and drinking water, which may pose different demands to water supply and water quality. Furthermore, flooding can be a problem in the wet season and drought in the dry season.
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4. Przemsza, Poland

Geographical and geophysical setting
The Przemsza river catchment is situated in an ecoregion of "central plains", 14 (acc. to WFD). The catchment belongs to the upper Vistula river catchment. Its area is 2,121.5 km2, river length - 87.6 km, mean longitudinal slope - 2 ‰, and relative heights range within the interval of 50 - 150 m (the area is elevated at 250 - 500 m a.s.l.).

The catchment is situated in the area of the Silesian Upland (Wyżyna Śląska). Its base consists of coal bearing Carboniferous rock on which dolomites and limestone of the middle Triassic are located. The catchment covers the area of the Upper Silesia (Górny Śląsk). It is a region significantly transformed by mining and heavy industry. Hard coal has been mined there for over 200 years. Industrial development was accompanied by town development. The greatest town (Sosnowiec) has ~ 250,000 residents. In last years coal mining has been limited, nevertheless serious changes of the natural water regimes are still taking place. Draining mine waters is still necessary; only a part of them is economically utilised and the rest is released into the surface river network. It is difficult to estimate correctly the quantity and quality of both surface and underground water resources. General assessment shows that the water quality of Przemsza River does not meet any of the water purity classes.
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5. Iskar, Bulgaria

Geographical and geophysical setting
The Iskar River is the longest Bulgarian river (368 km), situated in the western part of the country. It belongs to the Danube River Basin. The selected subcatchment begins at the river spring and covers an area of 1,040 km2 with average latitude of 1,314 m.

Geographically Bulgaria is situated in the south part of the temperate zone, near the subtropical Mediterranean climate zone, which determines the moderate continental climate. Mainly during the second half of the summer and the beginning of the autumn, the climate is affected very often by Azores anticyclones, which cause long-lasting dry spells. There are three homogeneous sections of the selected subcatchment: high mountain (upper part), low mountain and at the end plains sections. Considering their latitude typical features in terms of vegetation and climate are presented.
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6. Cyprus

Geographical and geophysical setting
Cyprus has an intense Mediterranean climate with the typical seasonal variations strongly marked with respect to temperature, precipitation and weather in general. Cyprus can be subdivided into four main topo-climatic regions: a) The high altitude areas (500 to 1950 m asl) of the Troodos mountain range (18% of the island) with an aridity index (Penmann-Monteith classification) of 0.54 classifying it as "Dry Subhumid". b) The slopes of the Troodos mountain range at altitudes of 200 -500 m amsl (27% of the island) with an overall aridity index of 0.3 classifying it as "Semi-arid". c) The Mesaoria Plain dominating the central eastern part of the island (20% of the island) at elevations of 0 - 200 m asl with an aridity index of 0.18 classifying it as "Arid". d) The coastal areas at 0 - 200 m elevation amsl, but including the Pentadactylos mountain range along the northern part of the island (35% of the island) with an aridity index of 0.23 classifying it as "Semi-arid". The overall average aridity index is 0.295 classifying the climate of the whole island as "Semi-arid".
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7. Merguellil valley, Tunisia

Geographical and geophysical setting
The Merguellil River is one of the 3 large temporary rivers that extend over the central semi-arid Tunisia and feed the Kairouan plain. This plain contains one of the largest aquifers of Tunisia, exploited essentially for agriculture (50 Mm3 per year) and "exported" for the human consumption along the tourist coast line (10 Mm3 per year). The region is subject to great climatic variability.
The Merguellil catchment is shared by the large El Haouareb dam, with a capacity of 90 Mm3, into a lower part, a large plain, and an upper part composed of different hilly sub-basins. Since its construction in 1989, the large dam has never been filled to its full capacity. Its annual inflow (between 5 and 37 Mm3, with a mean of 17 Mm3) evaporates by 25% and infiltrates to groundwater by 63 %. Before the dam, flood water infiltrated along the river bed. Since the dam, the alluvial aquifer is only recharged by lateral inflow from other aquifers and by flow under the dam.
In the lower part of the catchment, water is abstracted from the only available water resource, the thick alluvial aquifer, and is mainly used for irrigation. The number of boreholes increases continually and the aquifer overexploitation is perceptible through a drop of the water-table (between 0.25 and 1.0 m per year for the last two decades). The upper part of the catchment (1,200 km2) has much more diversified conditions in terms of topography, vegetation, land-use and water-use. Bench terraces cover about 25 % of the total surface and their number is rapidly increasing. Water is also stored by 38 small hillside earth dams and 4 larger headwater dams (mean capacity: 1 Mm3).
The Merguellil catchment is a semi-closed system with strong internal dependences but also with significant links with the outside. In the lower catchment, most of the irrigation water is taken from private wells. Large collective modern irrigation systems also exist. Production is traditional but also adapted to new possibilities as the tourist demand for fruits. This leads to the development of irrigation. Wasting is explained by the low cost of water. Sub-optimal crop management leads to poor irrigation efficiency and low water productivity. In collective systems, the water allocation cycle limits the types of irrigated crop systems and the incorrect water distribution may penalize the most performing plots. A detailed socioeconomic investigation has already been done with farmers in order to know their motivations, perceptions and influences.
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8. Tadla irrigation scheme, Morocco

Geographical and geophysical setting
The Tadla irrigation scheme in Morocco, covering 125,000 ha, comprises of 2 large-scale irrigation schemes (97,000 ha), as well as 18,600 ha private irrigation fed by tube wells and 9,100 ha of traditional small-scale schemes at the bottom of the Atlas Mountains.

Located 200 km south-east of Casablanca, it is fed by the Oum-er-Rbia and Abid rivers. It produces 22 % of the national sugar beet production, 11 % of the olives & fruits, and substantial quantities of fodder, supporting 16 % of the milk and 11 % of the meat production.

Irrigated agriculture in the Tadla plains is characterized by a conjunctive use environment. Farmers are increasingly using groundwater resources in addition to available surface water resources. Recent research suggests that today, an annual volume of 500 - 600 million m3 comes from groundwater, which is more than the surface supplies, and about 50 % of the farmers have access to this resource. Two main questions related to the evolution of irrigated agriculture should be addressed. Firstly, the sustainability of the exploitation of groundwater resources is questionable.

The groundwater quality is heterogeneous, and some farmers irrigate with saline water. There is concern on its adverse impact on soils and groundwater. Groundwater levels are going down, prompting farmers to exploit the captive aquifer with questions on its sustainability. Also, the viability of farms not having access to groundwater is threatened due to severe restrictions in surface water supplies. Secondly, Tadla is a precursor in Morocco in experimenting on a wide range of technical innovations, economic incentives and institutional arrangements to reduce water stress. However, despite certain advances, farmers use more water than they did 10 years ago and technical innovations are not adopted by a majority of them. Water users associations do not assume much responsibility in water management. Questions related to farmers participation in the formulation and application of water saving policies, and the scope for collective action in water saving at the grass roots level need to be taken up to ensure a more sustainable water use for a viable irrigated agriculture.
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