Next year’s climate summit still lacks a host
washingtonpost.com, 7th of December 2023
Despite its many benefits, the contribution of Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) to water security at the global level is still limited. To help reduce risks associated with MAR, adelphi trained stakeholders and accelerated the use of an innovative web-based, real-time monitoring and control system. An insight into adelphi’s work.
It is invisible and has often been perceived as a mystery. Up until the seventeenth century, from Aristotle to Descartes, the belief prevailed that groundwater flows from the sea via mysterious channels to the mountains, where it emerges from springs [R1].
Today, we know that this is not true. But are you also aware that groundwater is the most abundant source of freshwater on earth, accounting for about 99 % of liquid freshwater [R2]? This vital resource not only supplies almost half of the world's drinking water [R3], it plays also an important role in the provision of several services to human activities, including flood mitigation, seawater intrusion control, sustaining aquatic ecosystems and being a critical storage element for climate-change adaptation.
Yet despite its importance, groundwater is still poorly understood, undervalued [R4 ] and not well enough managed [R3].
As human activities and climate change increase, so does the dependence and pressure on groundwater resources, which are being pumped at an alarming and unsustainable rate. As a result, overexploitation of aquifers in many places leads to subsidence of the earth's surface, drying up of springs, decline in river flow, increased vulnerability to pollution and seawater intrusion. Coastal areas in particular are increasingly suffering from inadequate drinking water supplies and declining quality of agricultural land due to progressive soil salinisation, a trend that is expected to intensify due to the effects of climate change.
If managed intelligently and sustainably, such as through managed aquifer recharge (MAR), groundwater has significant untapped potential to enhance water security, especially in times of climate change [R4].
However, despite the multiple benefits of MAR (including financial and environmental), its contribution to water security at the global level is still limited. The reasons for this include the lack of public acceptance of MAR, open questions about its impacts and missing capacities and resources for optimal operational management. These barriers can be addressed with detailed real-time data on geohydrological processes, which help to monitor reliably and to predict and mitigate risks associated with groundwater recharge.
It is important to note that MAR is not a one-size-fits-all solution. The applicability and benefits of MAR systems depend on various technical and socio-economic aspects. MAR must be seen as an integrated solution that requires a sound governance of multiple water resources and conflicting interests.
To help reduce risks associated with MAR, adelphi in the frame of the SMART-Control project trained and engaged MAR stakeholders in the use of an innovative web-based, real-time monitoring and control system (RMCS)—including an INOWAS Decision Support System (DSS) —at pilot sites in Cyprus and Brazil. Additionally, adelphi explored application opportunities of the RMCS at potential replication sites with core stakeholders helping encourage greater uptake of MAR in the years ahead.
Main outcomes of adelphi’s activities aimed at reducing risks associated with managed aquifer recharge:
adelphi’s contribution has helped to raise awareness and build capacities for sustainable use of groundwater resources. Our aim in this way was not only to strip groundwater of some of its mystical charm, but rather to strengthen the recognition of the full potential of groundwater management in climate adaptation and water security in the years to come.