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Globaqua: water management and global change

The new European project Globaqua will focus on the quality and quantity of water in a scenario of global change.  The project has a duration of 5 years and scientists of 12 countries are involved. The global budget is 7.5 M€.


In Globaqua, scientists will analyze the impact of global change on several European basins and rivers.¿What are the future scenarios of global change? ¿How they will affect the avalaibility of water, their quality and quantity? These are the questions raised by Globaqua, a European based project within the 7FP. The project is led by the scientist Damià Barceló, at the IDAEA-CSIC. Up to 23 centres and universities from 12 countries will participate on the project (including the non-European countries Canada and Morocco).

“In Globaqua we speak about global change because we want to analyze the circumstances caused by climatic change, but also the ones caused by socioeconomy and how they affect rivers and their environment”, explains Alícia Navarro, CSIC scientist at the IDAEA and project manager of Globaqua. 

“The EU endorsement of Globaqua”, points out Damià Barceló, “is a consequence of the good work developed in a previous project, SCARCE, which was funded by the Consolider program of the Spanish Ministery of Economy and Competitiveness. In that project we analyzed the effects of drought on the aquatic environment, and how to manage the future episodes of water scarcity related to climatic change”.

In Globaqua, scientists will analyze the impact of global change on several European basins: Ebro (Spain), Evrotas (Greece), Sava (a tributary of the Danube that flows through Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina-Serbia), Adige (in the northeast of Italy), Anglian (in the UK), and the Souss Massa (in Morroco). Every river has a different environmental and socioeconomic situation which supposes specific problems.
The Ebro river is affected by pollution from cities and industry, as well as water extraction, irreversible morphological changes  and the arrival of invasive species. Another case is the Adige river and the Noce, its tributary, which flows through the Alpes surrounded by ski slopes and thermo-power plants. In this case, the climatic change reduces the amount of snow, the capacity of producing electricity and a reduction in the water available. All this together can lead to water conflicts.

The Sava river suffers extreme droughts and floodings, as well as pollution and the arrival of invasive species. The Evrotas, with a severe scarcity of water, is under strong agricultural and urban pollution pressure. The Anglian river is submitted to an intensive water extraction and human pressure. The Souss Massa river suffers the consequences of drought, which are worsened by the intensive use of groundwater for agricultural purposes.   
The Project will analyze the different stress factors and what or who can be affected by them, the consequences and how to manage these situations. In order to do the simulations, scientists will take as a reference the different climate scenarios by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).   

Water and land

Globaqua will analyze hydrological aspects (amount of water available, its quality and pollution) but also will pay attention to the geomorphology of the land, an aspect which has not been always adequately studied.

As Alicia Navarro clarifies, “geomorphology studies the sediments,  the riverbed, the vegetation of the river banks, the construction of infrastructures such as artificial reservoirs...” When a reservoir is built, explains the scientist, “it affects the water flow and retains sediment, which in turn retains pollutants. As a result, downstream there is smaller amount of water but less contaminated”. But when there is risk of floods and the embankment gates have to be opened, a high amount of pollutants is released together with the water.

“Crushed stone extraction modifies the physical state of the river, affects its ground and vegetation. It is important to have vegetation because it retains the soil" 

Navarro adds more examples: “Crushed stone extraction modifies the physical state of the river, affects its ground and vegetation. It is important to have vegetation on the river bank because it retains the soil. Otherwise, if plants and trees are cut down, when floods happen the water drags the soil. And the flood damages are more severe as the amount of soil and sediments dragged by the water is greater.

Therefore, it is important to preserve the natural flood plains and their vegetation. It is something that has not been considered in rivers like the Llobregat, admits the scientist. The Llobregat river, in Barcelona, is badly trapped in the middle of buildings and now it can’t move as should: “Rivers evolve, meanders change, they are not always fixed in the same place”.

Other stress factors that will be analyzed are the presence of pathogens, the exploitation of groundwater and the changes in the use of soil. Scientists will study how these changes affect the biology and functions of the ecosystem, as well as the services from the river to society (water, fishery, energy, leisure spaces…). The implications of these changes (biodiversity loss, effects on the society welfare) and management strategies (water and land policies, and priorities) will be studied.  

Globaqua information in CORDIS website: