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Content archived on 2024-05-21

Natural baseline quality in european aquifers: a basis for aquifer management


Problems to be solved
There is currently no standard to assess the natural baseline quality of groundwater.
This is required
a) as a basis for defining pollution and
b) because existing limits are breached by entirely natural processes. The present-day baseline inorganic and organic geochemistry will be investigated using selected reference aquifers as well as historical water quality trends in these aquifers. State-of-the-art chemical, isotopic and radiometric tracer techniques and geochemical modelling will be used to define timescales of the natural geochemical processes. The results will be used as a scientific basis for underpinning the emerging Water Framework Directive and for making recommendations for monitoring natural aquifer systems. This will be achieved by working closely with an advisory group drawn from regulatory bodies in the consortium. The results will be presented through scientific channels, for use by policy makers and legislators.
Scientific objectives and approach
The objective of the BASELINE project is to establish criteria for defining natural water quality baselines and develop a standardised Europe-wide approach for use in the emerging Water Framework Directive. Such a standard, based on geochemical principles, is needed to be able to assess scientifically the natural variations in groundwater quality since these alone may breach existing health limits. These criteria are also needed as a reference to assess quantitatively whether anthropogenic pollution is taking place. The project will also focus on timescales influencing the natural processes and the rates at which these are occurring and appropriate dating tools (including radioisotopes and CFC's) will be used. The extent to which pristine waters are being depleted by contaminated waters moving into the aquifer will also be assessed. As well as giving the scientific framework, this project will provide a forum for discussion with policy makers and end users, including the utilities and general public. The work will be conducted in a number of representative aquifer cross sections in both carbonate and non-carbonate terrain in groundwater catchments in several European countries (Estonia, Poland, Denmark, Belgium, France, UK, Spain and Portugal).
Expected impacts
The expected impacts will relate both to advances in science as well as firm policy recommendations and material for end-users. This will include recommendations to EU (EEA) on how the baseline concept can help to underpin policy decisions relating to water quality including monitoring practice at European level. The improved understanding of the natural properties of groundwater, its quality, residence times and distribution will have an impact on decisions relating to the sustainable uses of water in Europe as well as on the role of groundwater in the environment in general.

Call for proposal

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EU contribution
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Crowmarsh Gifford, MacLean building
United Kingdom

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Total cost
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Participants (15)