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Optimisation for sustainable water management

Final Report Summary - OPTIMA (Optimisation for sustainable water management)

The overall aim of the OPTIMA project was to develop, implement, test, critically evaluate and exploit an innovative, scientifically rigorous and practical approach to integrated water resources' management, which intended to increase efficiencies and reconcile conflicting demands in the Mediterranean region.

The proposal was based on the European Water Framework Directive and the concepts of the Dublin Statement and considered economic efficiency, environmental compatibility and social equity as the pillars of sustainable development. It also addressed both the importance of the socio-political and economic aspects and the importance of a reliable, consistent and shared information basis for the policy and decision making processes. Furthermore, the integration of a complete economic assessment facilitated communication with stakeholders.

The methodology developed in OPTIMA successfully extended and applied multi-criteria optimisation and mathematical programming into an interactive, participatory and web-based approach through the:

1. development of objectives, criteria and constraints in cooperation with stakeholders and actors
2. exploitation of a full-featured dynamic and distributed simulation model and genetic programming concepts
3. extension of the sets of objectives, criteria and constraints to include environmental and social dimensions which were difficult to quantify
4. emphasis on local acceptance and implementation via the inclusion of stakeholders in policy and decision making
5. comparative evaluation and benchmarking across a series of case studies in seven countries of the southern and eastern Mediterranean
6. demonstration of the benefits of quantitative analysis and optimisation through calculations in monetary terms.

OPTIMA was structured in four distinct phases. The first was dedicated to the analysis of detailed requirements and constraints, the structure of decision making within case studies, the identification of major actors, the analysis of data availability and requirements and the resulting detailed specifications. The second phase concentrated on data compilation, development of a regional database of water technologies and associated cost functions and tool development. During the third phase the selected case studies were analysed. Finally, the fourth and final project phase concentrated on comparative evaluation and dissemination of its findings, generic data, best practice examples and developed tools.

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