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Industrial and environmental Managed Aquifer Recharge-related water security cases contributing to food safety and public health

IWRA 2021 Online Conference One Water, One Health
Theme 2: How can managing water in agriculture contribute to food security and public health?
Author(s): Dr. Enrique Fernández Escalante

Dr. Enrique Fernández Escalante (IAH MAR Commission, Tragsa R&D), Madrid, España

Keyword(s): Water security, Managed Aquifer Recharge, collaborative governance, multilevel governance, space of collaboration, water supply guarantee and Decision Support Systems (DSS)


(a) Purpose or objectives and status of study or research hypothesis
The main target of this paper is to demonstrate how Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) is part of the palette of solutions to water shortage, water security, water quality decline, falling water tables, and endangered groundwater dependent ecosystems; and consequently, food security and public health protection. Within this context, selected Spanish cases of MAR-related industrial and environmental cases have been studied, establishing some series of indicators to track their evolution, to demonstrate whether or not MAR is a key element for human wellbeing, socio-economic development, water quality preservation/improvement, and even political stability.

(b) Key issue(s) or problem(s) addressed
Some areas depending on agroindustry have an increased vulnerability regarding their water security, jeopardized due to water-related extreme events as a climate change consequence. The selected areas have included MAR in their Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) schemes to increase their resilience and to improve the governance schemes. MAR is contributing to preserve industrial and environmental values in areas where water availability and groundwater quality are subject to strong environmental impacts. Therefore the socio-economic success is related to water preservation and MAR to a certain extent.

(c) Methodology or approach used
Five selected cases from Spain where MAR is applied have been studied, in regards to:

  1. Urban water supply guarantee´s rise (Madrid and Barcelona cases) and how the MAR technique intervenes in this parameter.
  2. Evolution of socio-economic indicators in a rural area where MAR is applied since 2002 (Segovia). E.g. food production, employment creation, percentage of MAR water used in agriculture.
  3. Water security related to water quality evolution and measures for preservation (Valladolid). Water quality variations depending on the wise mixture of different origin water resources, with stakeholders´ intervention (Co-MAR).
  4. MAR is used to decrease the flood´s devastation effect on crops and food production (Valencia). The indicator applied is the amount of water detracted from a flood and rapidly converted into groundwater.
  5. MAR to reduce the disturbing presence of water in agricultural areas with drainage problems affecting food production (Salamanca).

(d) Results and conclusions derived from the project
In general, the application of MAR technique in IWRM schemes are improving urban water supply guarantee (over 95%) (1); increasing the irrigation areas entails a rise of the population about 6% since the year 2000 and triplicating the production of the crops (2); the reuse of water is key for food production, and MAR is improving water quality in at least 17 parameters. Also the “dilution as a solution to pollution” is being used although this technique should be avoided (3); the amount of water detracted from floods is about 0.05 MMC in each event (4), and; the drainage is presenting water-related impacts (nitrates concentration) for MAR still
pendant to be solved, anyway, the food production is resulting in increased (5). The intermittent MAR systems cannot guarantee a permanent application, and water security has a higher degree of uncertainty. Nevertheless, SAT-MAR cases in which the recharge takes place 24-7 with water sources coming from a Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP) and combined resources are increasing water security appraisals, although water quality evolution must be permanently monitored. Therefore, some constraints to be collectively solved remain, and the solutions must be achieved in bottom-up approaches into multi-level governance organizational schemes and spaces of collaboration involving, at least, water authorities and stakeholders.

(e) Implications of the project relevant to selected conference theme, theory and/or practice
The facts of managing water in agriculture and urban water supply using MAR are contributing to food security (water availability of good quality for safe productions) and, consequently, public health.

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