Skip to main content

FREE and open source software tools for WATer resource management

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - FREEWAT (FREE and open source software tools for WATer resource management)

Reporting period: 2016-10-01 to 2017-09-30

FREEWAT is an EU HORIZON 2020 project aiming at promoting Water Resource Management (WRM) by simplifying the application of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and other EU water related Directives by means of innovative GIS integrated open source and public domain ICT simulation tools (the FREEWAT platform).
The WFD requires an increase in monitoring activities; this in turn led to the availability of time series that allow the implementation of efficient water management tools.
The FREEWAT project aimed at improving WRM by achieving the following specific objectives:
(i) to provide EU Governing Bodies, Authorities and Water Utilities and environmental companies with innovative, free and open source software tools having friendly usability;
(ii) to build knowledge and capacity in the use of scientific software technologies;
(iii) to support the FREEWAT application in an innovative participatory approach gathering technical staff and relevant stakeholders to develop appropriate water policies;
(iv) optimising the use of water resource monitoring data, for the solution of issues such as water availability and quality;
(v) building a web based community of users and developers and innovative companies that will exploit the FREEWAT platform.
FREEWAT (v.1.0) is now a large plugin integrated into the QGIS GIS desktop. It is based on groundwater and solute transport numerical models (mainly from the MODFLOW USGS family) as well as modules for, i.e.: solute transport in the unsaturated and saturated zone; calibration, uncertainty and sensitivity analysis; management of water in agriculture; tools for analysis of groundwater quality issues.
About 1200 persons were trained in the use of FREEWAT during the project, from more than 400 institutions worldwide. Statistics on FREEWAT downloads, saying that about 40% of the downloads are for training purposes, clearly shows as ICT tools are not still widespread instruments used in WRM and that these kind of training is needed. FREEWAT courses are ongoing also after the end of the project in 2017 in Italy, Spain, Germany, and they are foreseen also in 2018.
FREEWAT has been successfully applied to 14 case studies, addressing different issues related to WFD and also rural water management. Most of these case studies are now being used for daily water management issues. This application provided a large set of examples of the importance of using reliable ICT tools in water resource management under various and changing climatic and cultural conditions.FREEWAT is recognized as a flagship EU initiative at global scale and it is having an impact on digital Europe, on society and technology. The FREEWAT software can be downloaded for free from the FREEWAT software download webpage. The FREEWAT International Association is going to be founded in January 2018.
In the second period reported the stable FREEWAT version 1.0 was achieved, by moving from v0.1 (July 2016) to v0.5 (July 2017). FREEWAT is a large plugin integrated in QGIS software, a free and open source GIS desktop software. So far it has been downloaded by about 2500 potential users (in about 7 months). Statistics says that 40% of the downloads are for academic/research use, 30% for training purposes, and 30% for commercial application (about 20%) and in public authorities (about 10%).
Capacity building activities allowed to train about 1200 participants during about 60 courses and involving as much as 400 institutions and companies.
The application of the FREEWAT platform to 14 case studies to solve selected issues for the implementation of the WFD, Groundwater Directive (GWD) and to rural water management issues served as test for demonstrating FREEWAT platform functionalities in the real world.
Securing the uptake of scientific/technical knowledge throughout the policy cycle was of utmost importance for FREEWAT to reach an impact. Active participation of stakeholders in the use of FREEWAT and in the analysis of the water management scenarios is at the core of the FREEWAT project in order to: i) to demonstrate the benefits of applying the FREEWAT platform also to a non-technical audience; ii) to guarantee a more thorough FREEWAT distribution; iii) to help increase the numbers of FREEWAT users; iv) to ensure enhanced science- and participatory approach evidence-based decision making by using the results of the FREEWAT application. About 100 Focus Groups meetings participated by 1000 persons demonstrated the relevance of introducing the participatory approach during the technical phases while elaborating solutions for water resource management issues.
Dissemination, Communication and Exploitation activities helped in raising awareness among stakeholders about the project aims and objectives and ensuring maximal exploitation of project results. Two open workshops were held at the end of the project. On September 21st, the 1st FREEWAT Users and Developers International Workshop took place. This was the time to present in detail the most relevant outcomes and tools developed within the FREEWAT project, also to non-FREEWAT partners. Presentations about FREEWAT applications to case studies were given followed by an open discussion concerned FREEWAT applicability and exploitation at National and International levels. All the workshop material can be downloaded at: On September 22nd the International Workshop ICT tools for innovating Groundwater Management in a changing world took place at the Spanish Research Council (CSIC) premises. The workshop, chaired by Enric Vázquez-Suné (IDAEA-CSIC), was co-organized by the EU HORIZON 2020 FREEWAT project ( and the Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research (IDAEA, environmental institute within the CSIC), partner of the project, within the context of the European Innovation Partnership on Water (EIP WATER – Action Groups “Managed Aquifer Recharge Strategies and Actions” and “Water & Irrigated agriculture Resilient Europe” and the ICT4WATER cluster initiative ( All the workshop material can be downloaded at:
FREEWAT is recognized as a flagship EU initiative at global scale and it is having an impact on digital Europe, on society and technology, by providing ICT tools for facilitating water resource management. FREEWAT addresses the following technology and innovation needs:
1. for ICT tools and technologies to boost the application of the WFD and water related Directives;
2. for creating coordination and synergies among ICT tools produced and establishing a common set up in their application;
3. for having free and open source tools, GIS integrated, and capable to perform spatial and temporal analysis on water quantity and quality issues;
4. for ICT tools for the analysis of the conjunctive use of surface water and ground water, and more in general to evaluate the impact of climate change on water resource;
6. for effectively using data provided by the extensive monitoring required by the WFD;
7. for capacity building in ICT within the EU water sector;
8. for including the participatory approach in order to step forward from solely technical approaches to deal with very complex water related issues;
9. for supporting adequately scientific research results in order to foster their real scale application and uptake by policy makers.