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Sustainable management of Mediterranean coastal fresh and transitional water bodies: a socio-economic and environmental analysis of changes and trends to enhance and sustain stakeholders benefits

Final Report Summary - WADI (Sustainable management of Mediterranean coastal fresh and transitional water bodies: a socio-economic and environmental analysis of changes and trends ...)

The general objective of the WADI project was to encourage the rational and sustainable use of freshwater resources within Mediterranean coastal areas experiencing water scarcity by means of participatory approaches. The project focused on issues, constraints and conflicts regarding the use of fresh water and other natural resources linked to water, as identified through the active participation of key stakeholders.

The aim was to increase awareness and collaboration among the actors for the conservation of freshwater resources and their sustainable use for the benefit of the community at large, particularly of those who have little voice in the local communities. Specific objectives, which contributed to the achievement of the general objective, were:

1) To identify conflicts of use among stakeholders arising from improper management of water bodies and related constraints within selected study sites in Mediterranean coastal areas suffering water scarcity and associated constraints.
2) To assess and, where relevant, estimate the impacts of various water uses and nearby human activities on coastal water bodies, such as fluvial systems, estuaries, marshlands and lagoons.
3) To produce interdisciplinary scientific inputs for improved participatory water management strategies and related planning regimes for a rational use of water resources, taking into account economic, sociocultural and environmental constraints at the local level but without losing sight of other broader scales (national, regional and international).
4) To develop and propose alternative management strategies and plans for the selected sites as well as general guidelines for appropriate and sustainable management of water resources in Mediterranean coastal areas.
5) To establish a network of scientists, authorities and local communities within the Mediterranean, to enhance local awareness of water quality, use and misuse.


Results for objective 1: A number of significant (on national and regional level case-studies throughout the Mediterranean were selected for assessment and subsequent analysis: El Hondo lagoon (Alicante, Elche and Crevillent, Spain); Maryut Lake (Alexandria, Egypt); Ombrone low plain (Grosseto, Italy); Oued Laou basin (Tétouan and Chefchaouen, Morocco); Oued Tahaddart basin (Tétouan, Tanger Asilah, Morocco); Oued Mejerda low plain and Ghar El Melh lagoon (Bizert, Ariana and Manouba, Tunisia); the estuary area of Mondego River (Coimbra, Portugal). These systems were analysed from the sociocultural, socioeconomic and environmental (geographic, geomorphological, ecological and landscape) perspectives.

The sociocultural, socioeconomic and environmental contexts were considered holistically, through an ecosystem approach. Key issues of water demand and sustainability of the selected water bodies were identified during the first project year through meetings with stakeholders at each study site, promoting their reciprocal interactions and an efficient communication between scientists, civil society, managers and policy makers. Information gaps were identified and specific research was conducted at the study sites to provide both qualitative and quantitative databases.

During year three, focal meetings were held at the study sites to deal with management issues in particular, and the project results were communicated to the local, intermediate and national stakeholders.

Results for objective 2: Baseline conditions were assessed using available historical and archaeological information and, where applicable, palaeobiological and sedimentary records. Impacts were assessed, indicators of impacts identified and their magnitude estimated according to prevailing conditions at each study site.

The results were integrated in geographic information systems (GIS), which provide a suitable interface for management purposes. Databases were constructed by integrating the existing information and that resulting from the project, developing a flexible data system to be used by project participants and interested stakeholders.

Quantitative data were geo-referenced and time-referenced, so that the application (developed with visual tools and using object-oriented languages) allowed the creation of regional maps. The information in these maps has been registered to enable a more complete spatial analysis, as well as graphic presentation of the data. Where applicable, models were developed using existing time series to highlight trends of changes, and influential factors were estimated.

Results for objective 3: Soft-system analyses, among which 'focus group seminars' for stakeholders, were used at the study sites to identify key issues and constraints for subsequent management of water resources. The progressive strong changes and trade-offs in water allocation among domestic, agricultural, industrial and commercial uses were considered.

The results of the analyses conducted in the case studies helped to develop alternative scenarios of water management, which were presented to the stakeholders in the course of dissemination meetings held locally and at intermediate levels. The project results were presented to managers and collaboration agreements were signed with the researchers and institutions participating in WADI. The local population was also involved through events designed to explain the project results.

Results for objective 4: The study of impacts, and indicators thereof, resulted in alternative management strategies that were proposed to the stakeholders for the specific cases analysed and also for a wider Mediterranean context. Visibility was given to the alternative scenarios suggested to stakeholders and users.

The management strategies developed throughout the project and applicable in local contexts were extended to other similar contexts in Mediterranean coastal areas by means of wide-scale dissemination opportunities (conferences and workshops). Moreover, the databases were used on a wide geographic scale in comparative studies.

Results for objective 5: In the chosen case-studies, the various stakeholders were identified, along with their various forms of contribution to water management according to the specific physical, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. The contacts established among water managers, local and national authorities and scientists were considered a positive achievement of the project by the stakeholders.

They helped in profiling different local communities and defining the roles of men and women in different areas and levels of water management and planning. The specific role of women as end-users of water was a main focus and special attention was paid to gender issues when necessary. Dissemination material was produced to convey easy-to-understand messages about the importance of water, cultural and natural resources and their conservation through correct use. Target audiences were the scientific community, students and scholars at all levels as well as the public at large.

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