Integrated water resources management (IWRM) at the basin scale is founded on several steps: information availability and management, stakeholder involvement, the development of suitable hydrological simulation models and availability-demand models.
From a qualitative point of view, programmes of measures able to limit the impacts of both direct and indirect inputs on water bodies is a key issue in the perspective of EU-WFD implementation. The possible effects of climate changes on water scarcity and droughts enhancement should be taken into account and early warning indicators should be individuated; crisis management strategies as well as adapting capacities of the diverse users should be considered in water resources management.
Urban areas drainage design, which exerts its influence on both waste water treatment plant efficiency and surface and ground water quality, complete the integrated cycle of water management.
Water resources management at basin scale
Understanding hydrological processes at the slope scale (with particular reference to semiarid environments and intermittent river basins) is an essential step in order to tackle several issues, ranging from soil water availability to pollutant and sediment transport in the surface and sub-surface runoff, to the development of numerical models that simulate hydrological processes at the basin scale. Well placed in the international arena, IRSA contributes to the development and testing of the hydrological simulation model SWAT. Activities on land-use planning and on the management of water resources both in the Mediterranean area and in developing countries (Africa, India, South-East Asia) have been carried out. Currently research activities are in course with the following goals:
- assessment of the impacts on the hydrological processes and balance from erosion control practices in semi-desert areas (Maghreb);
- analysis of the flow trends of several rivers in the Mediterranean area (Europe and North Africa) and evaluation of possible human forcing;
- assessment of the impact of climate change on the water balance and on the sediments and nutrients mass balance;
- assessment of the environmental sustainability of biofuel crops.
Currently an experimental site within the Candelaro River Basin is being setup to study the runoff generation processes in semiarid areas and the consequent pollutant transport (nutrients and sediments) in order to design strategies and mitigation practices (Best management practices, BMP).
Integrated Water Resources Management: the use of knowledge-based and information-based models
The definition of a plan for the Integrated Water Resources Management requires to take decisions based on the available information. Nevertheless, this information is often insufficient, incomplete and uncertain with a negative impact on the effectiveness of decision-making process. The definition of the state of water resources and the assessment of the human activities' impacts requires, ON one hand, the development OF methodologies AND models TO support DATA AND information analysis (statistical analysis OF historical series OF DATA, spatialization OF information, uncertainty analysis). ON the other hand, the integration BETWEEN decision-making process AND information production AND management becomes crucial. Concerning the FIRST issue, IRSA developed methodologies FOR DATA analysis according TO the groundwater protection law (Dlgs. 30/2009). Concerning the effectiveness OF water management decision processes, IRSA developed models based ON knowledge structuring, able TO support stakeholders involvement, TO increase information accessibility, TO detect AND analyze conflicts IN water management AND TO support negotiation process AND policies implementation. The integrated information management AND the use OF shared AND easily accessible database (e.g. Web-GIS) play a fundamental role.
Climate changes impacts
Among the major concerns caused by climate change, the alteration OF the hydrological cycle AND the reduction OF freshwater resources (BOTH FROM surface water AND groundwater) ARE perhaps the most serious ones. Forecasting OF such impacts IS the result OF simplified descriptions OF dominant hydrological processes under the effect OF climate forcing scenarios (OUTPUT FROM GCMs/RCMs) HAVING inadequate SPACE-TIME resolution WITH regard TO the SCALE OF variability OF the processes themselves. Development OF LOCAL climate scenarios FROM GLOBAL AND regional simulation models IS a KEY issues FOR the probabilistic forecasting OF the impacts, needing suitable methodologies FOR the assessment OF the uncertainty. Researches carried out by IRSA include:
- implementation OF models suitably designed FOR the basin SCALE representation OF the interactions BETWEEN the dominant phenomena OF water AND energy balance;
- development OF specific methods FOR the downscaling OF atmospheric variables.
Drought AND water scarcity ARE strictly related TO climate change. Such phenomena strongly impact ON the final users. Activities OF IRSA include: vulnerability analysis OF the water systems; development OF early-warning indicators by means OF management models; the development OF drought integrated indices able TO merge physical quantities, representative OF the water availability, TO stakeholder perception issues. SOME OF these research activities ARE carried out FOR the Civil Protection Department, FOR which IRSA IS an official consultant.
Urban drainage management
Urban drainage management needs TO be considered IN the integrated water resources management TO guarantee a sustainable development, able TO cope the economic development WITH the protection OF the environment AND human health. It IS necessary TO plan an efficient AND up TO DATE integrated management OF the urban water services, which includes aqueducts, sewer systems, treatment plants, because such infrastructures AND their related maintenance AND management have a direct consequence ON water bodies. IRSA carried out experimental surveys IN an urban catchment (named “Mostacciano”) IN Rome TO perform quali-quantitative aspects OF urban drainage. Monitoring techniques FOR the control OF infiltrations AND ex-filtrations IN urban sewers systems were also SET up through field experiments IN two urban catchments IN Rome (named “Infernetto” AND “Torraccia”) IN the framework OF the European Project “APUSS” AND MORE recently applied AND validated IN the sewer system OF the urban area OF the town OF Capoterra IN Sardinia.
The present interest concerns the problems OF sediments IN urban drainage waters, AND require an effort FOR the quali-quantitative characterization AND the definition OF appropriate management rules.