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Integrated Water Management in Coastal Drainage Basins: challenges and adaptation strategies within the framework of climate change


Development of integrated models of water management for a Decision Support System taking into account stakeholders' needs and perspectives


The main objectives of the WATERKNOW project have been: (1) To determine the effect of climate and land use change on the water resources and the economics of Mediterranean drainage basins and (2) to build a practical decision support tool that stakeholders can easily use.

The whole project has been carried out in four work packages (WPs). In WP1 the teams at the University of Bologna (UB), the University of Lille (UL), and at the Forestry Engineering School of Morocco (ENFI) developed the geographic information system and the relational database. In WP2 the teams at UB, UL, and ENFI developed the hydrological models. In WP3 the teams at the University of Azores (UA) and at UL developed the geographic spatial interaction models. In WP4 the teams at UB and ENFI developed the decision support tools and the adaptive management strategies.

The project was focused on three study sites with differences and similarities among them. The three sites are: (1) The Quinto Basin (Italy), which is a small coastal polder watershed (100 kmq) characterized by irrigated agriculture, a drainage infrastructure, and mining activities (quarries). (2) The Tahadart Basin (Morocco), which is a large basin (1145 kmq) characterized by a land use dominated by rainfed agriculture and by the presence of large water retention basins for Tangiers drinkwater supply. (3) The Terceira Island (Azores, Portugal), which is an Atlantic island (640 kmq) characterized by heavy rainfall (1000-3000 mm/year at high elevation) and by pastures and agriculture.

The work flow strategy to determine the effects of climate and land use change on these three drainage basins is based on knowledge of the current land use maps, of the actual climate data, of the future climate data (scenario A1b for the period 2070-2100), of the availability of hydrolgic models for water budget calculations and of hybrid indexes for saltwater intrusion vulnerability assessment, of land aptitude maps, and of different land use development scenarios under green or grey planning policies.

The first step was to develop the GIS with the land use maps and the relational database (WP1). The largest challenge was to develop the land use map for the Tahaddart basin, because it was not previously available. To this end, we used satellite images coupled with object oriented image analysis and field spot checks to document the Tahaddart land use.

The relational database was developed on the basis of the DPSIR framework once the drivers, pressures, states, and impacts have been identified by means of the SWOT analysis and independent interview techniques. The SWOT analysis (italian site) among the stakeholders in the water resource was based on questions regarding three different topics: climate change, land use change, and seawater intrusion in the coastal zone. Despite the poor attendance at the meeting that we organized (Workshop “Freshwater as a resource in coastal areas facing the climate change”: 36 invitations, 4 shows, 2 interested seeking collaboration), it was possible to identify (among the institutional stakeholders) strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats for the drainage basins. Seawater intrusion and lack of cooperation among stakeholders in the water resources were perceived as main threats for the future. The climate change perspective was too far away in time to be of interest for the stakeholders that mainly rely on short term adaptation stategies. Where there was no possibility to perform a SWOT analysis some alternative techniques were used, such as the compilation from tourist advertisements of the most praised values regarding the water resources (Tahadart Basin) in order to obtain the perception of stakeholders (tourists) on the climate change and water resources issues. This activity was quite interesting, because tourism showed to be very much concerned on the maintaining of very high water-intensive activities, such as golf fields, swimming pools, landscaped greens in coastal zone, etc.

The hydrologic models used in the project included freely available software from the FAO (CROPWAT 2007) to calculate water budgets, hydrologic and geochemical analytical models and hybrid indicators such as the BEX index to identify freshening or salinization trends, the Ghijben-Herzberg-Dupuit formula, the GALDIT index, and numerical models such as MODFLOW and SEAWAT to estimate the depth of the interface between freshwater and salt-water. According to the geochemical models, it was possible to assess that both in the italian basin and in the island of Terceira there are groundwater salinization trends (especially where water land subsidence and/or pumping is intense) that are prone to worsen in future land use and climate change scenarios (A1b). Another important issue, that will become very important in basins like the Quinto and the Tahadart, is going to be be the increase in evaporation from open surface water bodies, this increase in evaporation will damage ecosystem services in the coastal zone and decrease the amount of drink-water. A general worsening of the hydroclimatic deficit has to be expected in all three basins for a future scenario such as that depicted in A1b. Seawater intrusion in the coastal zone will worsen in the future as a result of sea level rise that affect directly the analytical models and the indicators that we used to assess the vulnerability of aquifers to salinization. The vulnerability may also increase in particular sensitive aquifer such as those where the permeability is controlled by fractures (Terceira).

The spatial geographic interaction models developed at UA have been important to forecast land use development under the A1b climate change scenario. These models build an actual aptitude map for land use based on geomorphological and economic factors that is then extrapolated to the future under climate and economic forcing conditions. The maps obtained are the basis to develop the future land use scenarios and to apply to them the hydrological models. Where the geographic spatial interaction models were not available (Quinto basin), we used the land use development trends for the A1b, A2, and business as usual (BAU) scenarios under a green planning policy (no urban sprawl, more parks and natural wetlands) and a grey planning policy (no control on urban sprawl, less constraints on mining activities and recreational areas  development).

One important deliverable of the project is WATDSS a decision support tool that should help stakeholders in the water resources to take informed decisions on issues related to future water availability and seawater intrusion based on land use development trends and future climate conditions scenarios. In an effort to make this decision support tools easy to use also to “nottechnicians”, we developed WATDSS in an Excel workbook. This is a simple, flexible tool where the maps produced in ArcGIS or any other GIS platform can be easily gridded and imported in excel without losing geo-referencing after which each cell in the spreadsheet corresponds to a plot of land 100x100 m with a given land use, soil type, aquifer type and characteristics. Different layers within the same cells contain multiple attributes that can be used to implement hydrologic and hydrogeologic analytical models. This setup allows to apply this tool to the three different basins.
The components of WATDSS are the GIS-database, the climate scenario module, the land use scenario module, and thehydrogeologic module. In each module, at any cell of the grid representing a plot of land the appropriate formulas to compute vulnerability, water budget or any other hydrologic parameter can be easily applied, modified or updated.
By using WATDSS, it is easy to quickly produce maps showing the annual and seasonal water budget for all land use and climate change scenarios studied in the different basins, compute quickly and interactively the amount of surplus or deficit freshwater for any change (land use or any other parameter) in a grid cell. The same analysis can be done for the seawater intrusion vulnerability index GALDIT.
By using WATDSS, we have analysed freshwater availability for scenario A1b in the period 2070-2100 in the Quinto e Tahaddart basins. In both basins, the annual water deficit will increase but in the Tahaddart basin the winter water surplus will decrease whereas in the Quinto Basin it will increase substantially. Under these future conditions, drought will be a potential threat for the Tahadart and winter flooding will be a potential threat for the Quinto basin.

In the Quinto basin we were able to quantify freshwater availability in the future under multiple scenarios of land use and climate change. In this perspective the worst scenarios for land use change only is the BAU and the A2 grey. The best scenario is the A1b grey. By considering climate change only, the worst scenario is BAU and the A2. The best scenario would be the A1b. Considering both land use and climate change the worst scenarios are the BAU and the A2 grey, whereas the best scenario would be the A1b grey.
All land use change scenarios cause a decrease in water availability. Climate Change scenarios A1b and A2 increase yearly water availability thanks to increased winter rainfall but summer deficit increase. Climate and Land use change scenarios all cause decrease in water availability.

Contrary to expectations the “green scenarios” are water-intensive, because an increase in area of wetlands and forests requires more freshwater for the ecosystems with respect to other land uses.
Freshwater availability analysis in the future A1b scenario for the Tahaddart basin point out that there will be a reduction in the winter-period rainfall that will cause a decrease in the winter water surplus and strong water losses due to evaporation from open water surface bodies all year round. Not much change will happen for the summer period water budget.
We evaluated the vulnerability to seawater intrusion in the coastal aquifers as a function of land use and climate change. This was done by using the hybrid GALDIT indicator. Climate Change, because of sea level rise, influences the GALDIT seawater intrusion vulnerability index. Our results show that the increase in vulnerability affects both the coastal zone of Terceira (moderately) and of the Quinto Basin. Only Land use change scenario A2 grey increases seawater intrusion vulnerability in the Quinto basin.

The most important conclusions that we can draw from the study of the three basins in view of climate change scenario A1b for the period 2070-2100 are the following: (1) Freshwater availability in terms of water budget within the watersheds will be affected by a strong decrease in winter rainfall and a very strong increase in evaporation from open water surface bodies in the Tahaddart basin. In Terceira the annual rainfall will decrease. In the Quinto basin there will be an increase in winter rainfall and conditions for potential droughts during the summer; surface open water evaporation will also increase during the year. (2) Extreme events will probably increase at Terceira, in the Tahaddart there will be a strong increase for the risk of drought, and in the Quinto basin both drought and flooding risks will increase. (3) The seawater intrusion vulnerability of the coastal aquifers will moderately increase in the Lajes graben of Terceira and more substantially increase in the coastal zone and the pine forests of the Quinto basin. A change in land use from irrigated agriculture to other land uses, will cause an increase in vulnerability to seawater intrusion within the Quinto basin, because return flow from irrigated crops today is contrasting soil and groundwater salinization.
The adaptive strategies that we recommend to administrators and stakeholders in the water resources are summarized in the following. Water storage will be very important in all three basins (Terceira has no water storage today, Quinto Basin, Tahaddart) all seasonal surplus water needs to be stored in order to mitigate possible winter flooding and summer or extended drought.
Evaporation from open water surface bodies (Tahaddart, Quinto Basin) will become an important issue, because of increased temperatures. Water should be stored underground if possible (Managed Aquifer Recharge projects) or harvested with local traditional techniques (Morocco). The local issues and conflicts among stakeholders need to be resolved and longer term planning should become a must for the administrators. All water resources stakeholders should accept the fact that there will be losers and winners because of climate change – potential losers of the future (farmers) need to adapt faster and earlier to the changing conditions. We need to rethink the hydraulic infrastructure present on the territory and the relationships between groundwater and surface water: simple adaptation of the hydraulic infrastructure or changes in their management will improve a lot freshwater availability and will contrast seawater intrusion.

As a result of a collaboration with the italian regional water authorities (Regione Emilia-Romagna), the major stakeholders involved in the project, some funding has become available for the italian group to further study local issues on artificial groundwater storage and recharge.

We think that our project has contributed to the Mediterranean scientific community by providing some simple effective tools that allow to easily assess the effects of land use and climate change on the water budget of the mediterranean drainage basins. We also hope to have spread out knowledge about some geochemical and analytic models that allow to assess the trends in aquifer salinization and freshening, the interactions among land use, vegetation type and salinization, and/or water availability for the ecosystem services. The WATDSS tool that we have developed is a scientific instrument that allows to evaluate possible planning policies without the bias of political or apriori beliefs in the way water should be managed.


Published Articles
Antonellini M. and Mollema P. N. (2010). Impact of groundwater salinity on vegetation species richness in the coastal pine forests and wetlands of Ravenna, Italy. Ecological Engineering, 36, 1201.1211.
Antonellini M., Balugani E., Gabbianelli G., Laghi M., Marconi V., and Mollema P. (2010). Lenti d.acqua dolce nelle dune della costa Adriatico-Romagnola. Studi costieri, 17, 83-104.
Marconi V. and others: Hydrogeochemical Characterization of Small Coastal Wetlands and Forests in the Southern Po Plain (Northern Italy). Ecohydrology in press.
Mollema P. and others: Climate and water budget change of a Mediterranean coastal watershed, Ravenna, Italy. Journal of Environmental Earth Sciences in press.

Articles in review
Antonellini M, Masson E, Mollema PN, and Khattabi A. (2011). Water Budget Changes under the A1b Climate Change Scenario for the Tahadart Watershed, Tangiers, Morocco. Environmental Earth Sciences (to
be submitted).

Articles & Abstracts in preparation
Silveira Paolo, Vasco Silva, Tomaz Ponce Dentinho, Spatial interaction model with land and wateruse: An application to Quinto bacino Ravenna, Tahaddart Marocco and Terceira Island.
Antonellini M., Mollema, PN, Marazza D., Benini L., and Gabbianelli G. Spreadsheet-based Decision Support System for land and water use planning within scenarios of climate change.
Antonellini M., Khattabi A.; Mollema PN. And Gabbianelli G. Effects of climate change on water budget in the Tahaddart Basin: Morocco.
Masson E., Leroux S., Thenard L., Chentouf H., Blanpain O., Khattabi A. Amenagement du littoral tangerois : dynamique touristique et perspectives environnementales. Mediterranee.
Mollema P., Antonellini M., and Gabbianelli G. Discontinuous Seasonal aquifer recharge of fresh water lenses in a Mediterranean climate. Manuscript in preparation.

Extended abstracts
Marconi V, Antonellini M and Balugani E. 2010. The influence of surface waters (ponds and drainage ditches) on the salinization of a coastal aquifer in the south-eastern Po-plain (Italy). Presented at the conference of the International Association of Hydrologists conference in Krakovia September 2010.
Minchio A, , M. Antonellini , G. Gabbianelli , M. Laghi , V. Marconi And P. Mollema.2010. The changing water budget of Quinto Basin (Ravenna, Italy): a coastal watershed under climate change. Presented at the CIESM conference Venice, May 2010.
Mollema PN, Marco Antonellini, Giovanni Gabbianelli and Mario Laghi, 2010 The Influence of Surface Water Evaporation on Salt Water Intrusion in Ravenna, Italy. Implications for Climate Change. In: Proceedings of the Salt Water Intrusion Meeting June 21-25 Sao Miguel Azores, Portugal.
Mollema PN, Marco Antonellini, Tomaz Dentinho and Vasco R. M. Silva. 2010. The Effects of Climate Change on the Hydrology and Groundwater of Terceira Island (Azores). In: Proceedings of the Salt Water Intrusion Meeting June 21-25 Sao Miguel Azores, Portugal.
Antonellini M and Mollema P. 2009. Relationship between groundwater salinity and biodiversity in the coastal Pine forests of Ravenna, Italy. In proceedings of Hydro-eco 2009, Vienna Austria, 2nd International
Conference on Hydrology and Ecology: Ecosystems interacting with groundwater and surface water.
Silveira Paolo, Vasco Silva, Tomaz Ponce Dentinho, Spatial interaction model with land and wateruse: An application to Terceira Island, 45th ISOCARP Congress 2009. http://www.isocarp.net/Data/case_studies/1398.pdf

Antonellini M.; Balugani E.; Capo D., Dinelli E.; Gabbianelli G.; Laghi M.; Marconi V.; Minchio A. and Mollema P. 2009 - Salt-water Invasion in a Polder Basin of the Ravenna Coast (Italy): Actual State and Prognosis in View of Climate Change. Settimo Forum Italiano Scienze della Terra, Epitome A1 . 10 Poster, pag 35.
Antonellini M, Masson E, Mollema PN, and Khattabi A. (2011). Water Budget Changes under the A1b Climate Change Scenario for the Tahadart Watershed, Tangiers, Morocco. EGU Meeting Volume 2011.
Dentinho, T. P. Silveira, E. Masson, A. Khattabi, M. Antonellini and V. Silva. 2009. Spatial Interaction Model with Land and Water: An Application to Coastal Regions of Morocco, Portugal and Italy. In Proceedings PRSCO 2009 - 21st Conference of the Pacific Regional Science Conference Organisation 19 . 22 July, 2009, Conrad Jupiters, Gold Coast, Queensland.
Khattabi, A. Towards an integrated water management model in the context of climate change at the river basin scale . Case study from Morocco, In proceedings of GEWEX - Sixth International Scientific Conference on the Global Energy and Water Cycle Melbourne, Australia - 24/28 August 2009
Marconi, V, M. Antonellini, E. Balugani, A. Minchio, and G. Gabbianelli EGU 2009 The role of dunes in contrasting saltwater intrusion in coastal areas; a case study in the southern Po Plain Adriatic coast (Ravenna, Northern Italy)
Marconi V, Antonellini M, Dinelli D, Gabbianelli G, Mollema P, 2011. Arsenic source and release process in a coastal wetland located in the south eastern Po plain (Italy). Hydroeco Vienna, 2011.
Masson E. 2010. Optimizing field survey using GEOBIA methodologies. Abstract, GEOBIA 2010 Conference, Gent, Belgium July 2010.
Masson E. 2010. Remote sensing of surface water: taking benefit from OBIA and sensors. Abstract, Remote Sensing and Hydrology 2010 Symposium, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, USA, September 2010.
Masson E. 2010. Looking at catchment in colors: a system approach of complexity. Abstract, Leonardo EGU 2010 conference, Luxembourg, November 2010.
Mharzi Alaoui,H., A. Khattabi, M. Ezzahiri, M. Antonellini, M. Laghi, E. Masson 2009. Design and development of a decision support system for integrated management of water resourses in the cachment area of Tahaddart - North of Marocco In proceedings of GEWEX - Sixth International Scientific Conference on the Global Energy and Water Cycle Melbourne, Australia - 24/28 August 2009
Masson, E and M. Antonellini, T. Dentinho, and A. Khattabi. Coastal freshwater resources management in the frame of climate change: application to three basins (Italy, Morocco, Portugal) Geophysical Research Abstracts,Vol. 11, EGU2009-12391, 2009
Mollema, P. Marco Antonellini, and Gualbert OUde Essink, 2010. Discontinuous recharge of fresh water lenses along the Adriatic coast, Italy. Presented at Deltas in times of Climate Change, Rotterdam The Netherlands, Sep 2010
Mollema, Pauline, Marco Antonellini, Donato Capo, Giovanni Gabbianelli, Mario Laghi, Valentina Marconi. Current and future water budget of a Mediterranean coastal watershed: Quinto Basin, Ravenna, Italy. Accepted for presentation at Hydroeco 3, Vienna May 2011.

Baghdadi M., Khattabi A., Sabir M., Ezzahiri M. 2009. Evaluation du risque d'erosion et de ruissellement en vue d'un amenagement integre des ressources en eau et en sol (Cas du bassin versant Tahaddart, Rif
occidental). PhD thesis.
Chentouf Houda et Abdellatif Khattabi, 2009. Analyse SWOT & Acteurs mobilises dans la gestion des ressources en eau au niveau du BVT. Formation doctorale: "Gestion de l.Environnement et Developpement
Gouineau C. 2009. Gestion de Donnees Dans le Cadre du Project de Recherche WaterKnow Thesis. Licence Professionelle Institut Universitarie de Technologie - Caracassonne.
Khattabi A., M. Ezzahiri, H. M.harzi Alaoui 2009. Outil d.aide a la decision pour une gestion integree des ressources en eau par bassin hydrographique (Cas du bassin versant de Tahaddart). Master thesis
Marconi V. 2011. Effetti dell.uso del suolo, della vegetazione e del drenaggio sull.intrusione salina nell.acquifero freatico costiero della zona compresa fra Foce dei Fiumi Uniti e Foce Bevano (Ravenna), PhD tesi, Univeristy of Bologna.
www.researchmedia.eu Feb. 2010. Waterknow: Monitoring the change of hydrology. International Innovation


Marco ANTONELLINI: m.antonellini@unibo.it

Web site



Project Agenda

WATERKNOW meeting to define issues in the Taheddart basin

Address: Tanger
Date: 14 March 2009 / 16 March 2009

WATERKNOW project meeting

Address: Ravenna, Italy
Date: 31 Aug 2009 / 01 Sept 2009

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