MEDSAL Project aims to secure availability and quality of groundwater reserves in Mediterranean coastal areas, which are one of the most vulnerable regions in the world in terms of water scarcity and quality degradation. This objective will be addressed by providing a novel holistic approach directed towards sustainable management of coastal aquifers are affected by increased salinization risk. The proposed framework is envisaged to integrate different tools, techniques and methods – such as environmental isotopes, hydrogeological and hydrogeochemical modelling, advanced geostatistics and deep learning techniques – into an innovative assessment and management approach to: a) identify salinization sources (single or multiple) and decipher their governing processes, b) assess potential interactions with other compartments (small scale) and with other systems at basin (large) scale, c) forecast the spatiotemporal evolution of primary salinization and secondary impacts, d) perform risk assessment under variable climatic projections, and e) develop a public web-GIS observatory to support monitoring, management and decision making.
MEDSAL aims at developing innovative methods to identify various sources and processes of salinization and at providing an integrated set of modeling tools that capture the dynamics and risks of salinization. In this context, MEDSAL will provide a classification of groundwater salinization types for Mediterranean coasts and innovative methods to detect these types, also in complex karstic and data-scarce environments. These outcomes will be reached by better integration of hydrogeochemical and environmental isotope data with physical-based groundwater flow and transport models and advanced geostatistics. Artificial intelligence and deep learning methods will be also used to improve the detection of patterns in multi-dimensional hydrogeochemical and isotope data.
The main objective of MEDSAL is to improve the identification and definition of adequate strategies and measures for the protection and management of salinization in coastal aquifers. The above goal will be achieved through the accomplishment of the following Specific Objectives (SO): SO1: Deliver new tools for the identification of variable (multi-induced) and often cascading salinization sources and processes. SO2: Derive, build and integrate coherent and robust datasets of critical parameters related to GWS, especially in areas of insufficient and/or negligible availability. SO3: Couple physical-based models (hydrogeological and hydrogeochemical), environmental isotopes, advanced geostatistical methods and artificial intelligence (AI) techniques (shallow and deep learning) to develop novel approaches and methods in the simulation and forecasting of GWS. SO4: Identify new patterns and develop new proxies for monitoring, assessment and forecasting of GWS in areas with scarce data and/or limited financial and human resources. SO5: Elaborate tailor-made risk assessment and management plans by coupling GWS forecasts with climate change impacts and future scenarios. SO6: Develop a public domain web-GIS Observatory (MOb) for monitoring, alerting, decision support and management of coastal groundwater reserves around Mediterranean. SO7: Facilitate public participation and enhance active engagement of local societies to dataset development and monitoring. SO8: Facilitate fusion of expertise among academia and stakeholders (national level) and transfer of technology and know-how among the participating countries (international level), including cross-training on methods, tools and services. SO9: Establish networks and synergies between interested parties (scientists and stakeholders).
The MEDSAL project is expected to have significant environmental and socio-economic impact to water availability in coastal regions of the Mediterranean. First, a sustainable, measurable, attributable impact will be attained in the case study areas. In all case studies, salinization processes will be identified, attributed to activities and, measures will be proposed with timed outcomes. In all case study areas, the quality and availability of groundwater for drinking water supply and agriculture will be improved because of MEDSAL. Second, it will have impact beyond the case study regions through the transferability of the overall Framework and its tools/methods, MEDSAL aspires to progressively affect the wider coastal Mediterranean region, North and South, East and West and islands in the Mediterranean. The approach of MEDSAL will produce faster detection, better identification, and attribution, scaling to larger areas and improvement of remedation strategies and measures in the partner countries. The impacts will directly affect critical socio-economic domains, such as agriculture and tourism, which are among the principal water-users for most Mediterranean countries, especially in coastal areas. Water availability in coastal areas will be improved through a more accurate and reliable management of GWS; resilience/adaptation to potential adverse impacts due to climate change will be enhanced and the harmonization of policies and regulatory frameworks will create common grounds for extensive cooperation between the involved parties. Specifically: • Detecting groundwater salinization will be improved also for less experienced stakeholders; • the proposed system of types of groundwater salinization (intrusion, up-coning, solute traps, pollution, hydrological feedbacks by evaporation) will become known, documented and visible in case study sites (observatory, internet database), helping stakeholders to apply these cases to other aquifers and react in an adequate way; • modelling of groundwater salinization in coastal aquifers will be streamlined and improved by multi-model ensembles also for data-scarce regions and karstic aquifers; • high-risk areas can be identified and prioritized better and faster, e.g. for climate change impacts; • MEDSAL can be the prototype and create a framework for a coastal protection program against salinization including short-, mid- and long-term quality targets. MEDSAL is also expected to set the basis for new modelling routines of improved efficacy for GWS forecasting: (i) by introducing a new adaptive approach to modelling GWS covering a broad spectrum of coastal aquifers (porous, fractured and karstic) with various degrees of data scarcity and uncertainty by defining a progressive strategy from conceptual and analytical models, to increasingly compartmental models and finally physically-based and numerical process models for flow and transport. (ii) by enhancing physical-based models for flow and transport with hydrogeochemical processes in coastal aquifers, and (iii) by incorporating advanced geostatistics and machine learning techniques in groundwater flow and transport modelling.
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