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Sustainable Management of Water Resources by Automated Real-Time Monitoring

Final Report Summary - ALERT (Sustainable Management of Water Resources by Automated Real-Time Monitoring)

The ALERT project developed an innovative strategy for monitoring and managing the impact of climatic change and land-use practices on scarce water resources. Technological solutions that were designed as part of the project allowed for the almost real-time monitoring of geoelectric, hydrologic and other physical properties, thereby providing timely warning of potential threats to vulnerable water systems.

More specifically, the ALERT objectives were to:
1. use conventional and innovative sensors which could permanently be deployed in-situ to provide snapshots of the subsurface at regular intervals. The proposed equipment consisted of electrode arrays buried in shallow trenches or attached to borehole casing. The monitoring method required the use of telemetry and satellite communications and obviated the need for expensive repeated surveys. Moreover, no manual intervention was necessary.
2. relate time-lapse geoelectric measurements to hydrogeological and hydrochemical properties and processes. New algorithms and codes were developed to optimise data collection and invert time-lapse geoelectric information. The available electrical images were converted to mass fraction and interpreted to derive hydrological parameters.
3. develop predictive numerical modelling that could link all components of the hydrological continuum, such as climate, soil, surface and groundwater, recharge and discharge and, finally, seawater intrusion and extrusion. The hydrological model was evaluated under two different scenarios, which were based on conventional and a combination of conventional and remote sensing data respectively. Simulations for seawater intrusion were also successfully conducted, verifying that seasonal, annual or even yearly hydraulic head changes had little effects, leading to a very small, if any, detectable change in the saltwater intrusion front.
4. design new data fusion techniques, risk analysis and decision support tools within a web-based geographical information system (GIS) database to allow for suitable management of water resources. Stakeholders' objectives were identified based on socioeconomic analyses and were incorporated, in the form of criteria and indicators, within a decision support system (DSS). A participatory, bottom-up approach was used to properly determinate water management issues. The DSS was assessed for a range of external scenarios, including climate change and higher macroeconomic activity. Further development was proposed to integrate uncertainty and sensitivity analyses.

Moreover, an electronic database, accessible through the ALERT website, was established including project-related information and images. A small set of web pages were also designed to increase public awareness and list all publishable outputs.

The revolutionary technology that was developed for the first time as part of the project was tested in the Spanish Andarax delta, where the coastal aquifer was threatened by over-exploitation, rising sea levels, anthropogenic pollutants and seawater intrusion. The proposed methodology was satisfactory for homogeneous or layered media. However, further refinement was necessary for its application to heterogeneous media, due to the increased number of parameters, the nonlinearity of the imaging resolution versus sensitivity and the increasing number of petrophysical relationships that had to be formulated.

The hydrogeological patterns of the selected region proved less than perfect for the project purposes. It should be noted though that ALERT was highly successful in demonstrating the potential for development and commercial exploitation of similar proposals in the future.