Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Periodic Report Summary 1 - QUICS (Quantifying Uncertainty in Integrated Catchment Studies)

The Water Framework Directive (WFD) is the most significant EU legislation concerning surface water management. Programs of Measures are required to ensure water bodies achieve a good ecological status. It is important to predict the impact of interventions on water quality. Man-made and natural processes control surface water quality, these are highly complex with a range of sources, transport and transformation processes. Cost estimates by EU governments indicate that billions of euros will be spent over several decades to implement the WFD and achieve good ecological status in aquatic environments. There is an increasing level of concern on the implementation cost of achieving good ecological status in natural water bodies in the EU.
Integrated water quality models designed to predict the quality of water across the linked urban and rural scales in a catchment are seen as tools to optimise these costs. Integrated Catchment Modelling is based on linking numerous empirically calibrated sub-models of water quantity and quality processes. Catchment scale water quality predictions are then used to justify the investment. Current water quality sub-models contain significant uncertainty. Methods have been developed to quantify uncertainty. However little work has been carried out to investigate water quality uncertainty propagation between sub-models. QUICS will develop a generalised catchment wide approach to uncertainty assessment that can then be used in WFD implementation studies. It will address uncertainty propagation at the spatial and temporal scales found in catchments and develop tools to reduce uncertainty by optimising sampling and monitoring and the objective selection of model structures. This will reduce uncertainty in water quality predictions and result in better informed investment decisions and so have a significant impact on WFD implementation.
The overall aim of QUICS is therefore to provide high levels of training and carry out research in order to take the implementation of the WFD to the next level and improve water quality management by assessing the uncertainty of integrated catchment model water quality predictions.
A key impediment to providing better informed decision making is the lack of well qualified people who have the capabilities for advanced water quality modelling. The project employs twelve Early Stage Researchers (PhD Fellows) and three Experienced Researchers, with one Experienced Researcher to be employed in March 2017. These researchers receive high level training in water quality processes, statistical and computational methods, current industry modelling techniques, policy and regulation. The QUICS network comprises nine partners who are universities, research institutes and commercial enterprises where the researchers will be based. The project also includes seven associate partners who are involved in training and also host the researchers during secondments. QUICS therefore contains leading water quality scientists, uncertainty experts and private sector water management practitioners and modellers. It will train researchers capable of developing and implementing uncertainty management tools into Integrated Catchment Model studies. The full and associate partners provide complementary technical skills across the spatial/temporal scales of typical catchments and the skills and networks to facilitate implementation of uncertainty analysis by end-users. QUICS is built from sub-groups with a track record of successful collaboration within disciplines such as urban water (e.g. University of Sheffield, TU Delft, Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST), University of Coimbra, Aquafin, Waterways, Centro Tecnológico de Gestão Ambiental (CTGA) and Witteveen+Bos), rural hydrology (Wageningen University and Justus Liebig University Giessen, and LIST), radar rainfall (University of Sheffield and University of Bristol). TU Delft, LIST, Aquafin, Witteveen+Bos and CH2M provide access to catchment data, ranging from extensively monitored research catchments to less intensively monitored catchments. University of Sheffield, LIST, EAWAG, Justus Liebig University Giessen, Wageningen University, Waterways, CH2M, and Ruhr University Bochum have extensive experience in model development, University of Bristol and Aquafin have broad skills in radar rainfall error analysis and University of Sheffield and University of Coimbra have well-equipped laboratory facilities.
The main aim of QUICS is to educate and train researchers capable of operating at academic research institutions, engineering and environmental consultancies, water utilities or other public bodies so as to provide them with a comprehensive understanding of water quality processes, uncertainty issues and knowledge of appropriate decision making strategies for integrated catchment management. The network also has specific technical objectives to address key knowledge gaps.
The scientific studies in QUICS will evaluate different approaches for the identification and where possible quantification of uncertainty at significant temporal and spatial scales in catchments. The research will also aim to develop methods to propagate quantified uncertainty in water quality predictions between models with different spatio-temporal resolutions and also use this new knowledge to develop risk based decision making techniques so as to deliver better informed decisions for WFD implementation. Approaches will be tested and developed on case study catchments. QUICS has two network catchments Eindhoven-De Dommel in the Netherlands and the Haute-Sûre catchment in Luxembourg / Belgium, data for which are made available to all researchers by TU Delft and LIST respectively, some testing will use catchments in other countries.
A key element of the network is to work closely with engineering consultants to develop methods that can be used to communicate the implications of uncertainty in water quality predictions to enable better end user and public understanding and so improve the WFD decision making process.
The project started in June 2014 and new frameworks, new statistical and computational techniques are being developed. Some of these methods have been demonstrated in case study catchments already. These new tools have allowed for input, parameter and structural uncertainties to be quantified and in some cases these uncertainties propagated between different sub-models so that the overall impact of model uncertainty on water quality predictions can be quantified. The QUICS team is developing the software tool spup to propagate spatial uncertainty in hydrological models. Statistical tools have been developed to optimise the layout of rain gauge networks. Fast simplified whole catchment models, such as EmiStatR have been established to examine uncertainty propagation both in terms of pollutant releases and the potential for Real Time Control to help with WFD implementation. More practical risk based decision making frameworks are starting to emerge that will help decision makers make better informed investment decisions. The decision making tools and the better scientific understanding and statistically based uncertainty tools have the potential to deliver WFD solutions at lower cost. To ensure that this does occur the QUICS team of researchers and academics are working hard with CH2M, one of the end user partners to produce technical materials that will ensure that the scientific and technical innovations can be translated into a form that other end users can utilise in their WFD studies.
Further information can be found on the project website

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United Kingdom


Life Sciences
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