DEMO Site 5: River Brenta Catchment, Vicenza, Italy

Brenta FIA a Brenta FIA b
Forested Infiltration Area (FIA) Forested Infiltration Area (FIA)

The site is located close to an agricultural area in Schiavon municipality in the Province of Vicenza. The topic tackled is rural water management, specifically the problem of water scarcity and conflicts with other water users in the irrigation season.

The study will assess the potential of MAR to enhance the ecological status of groundwater in the North East Alpine District. The NE Alpine system constitutes an aquifer with abundant freshwater of very good quality in which meteorological processes (mainly rain and snow precipitations) allow the storage and the release of waters in the environment through glaciers, lakes, springs, rivers, groundwater bodies, and soils. The NE Alpine system is nevertheless extremely vulnerable in relation to climate change and the current water resource management. In the last 30-40 years, the water table has slowly but progressively declined, numerous wetlands have been desiccated (straining the resurgence ecosystem and its biodiversity) and the aquifers have been depressurized as result of over-exploitation; these negative effects are likely to worsen in the next decades as the frequency and intensity of droughts and water scarcity intensify. Still, groundwater can remain the primary water source for the Italian Northern Adriatic basins if managed in a sustainable manner and, even better, if recharge is established.

The DEMO site uses a Forested Infiltration Area (FIA) for Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR). The FIA uses furrow irrigation for ensuring infiltration into the aquifer; an ecological crop cultivated on the overland area maximizes the infiltration rate and provides environmental services. A system of furrows is fed by drainage channels connected to the irrigation ditch of the local irrigation network. The system operates continuously during the non-irrigation period during winter season ensuring that ecological flows of rivers are maintained, and on an intermittent basis during the irrigation period during summer season. The DEMO intends to show the impact of Infiltration Forested Areas on:

Aquifer Storage and Recovery. This activity foresees implementation of monitoring and mathematical modelling using state-of-the art methodologies, sensors and models in order to accurately monitor infiltration rates. Monito­ring of the springs nearby the DEMO site will contribute to quantify the impact of the MAR in the restoration of the resurgence system. Additional soil investigation and the infiltration monitoring will help to develop a calibrated hydrogeological mathematical model of the site that simulates infiltration in the unsaturated zone and recharge of the aquifer. The benefits of cultivation in the MAR area to prevent clogging will be demonstrated as well as the potential of MAR to abate nitrates. With the support of the mathematical model it will be possible to extrapolate data to the NE Alpine Upper Aquifer and assess the impact of MAR on the restoration of the aquifer and resur­gence system.

Ecological monitoring. The design and implementation of landscape restoration in the areas set for aquifer recharge will be another issue examined at the DEMO site. This important activity is in line with the general principles of the WFD 2000/60/EC, and it falls under the Management Plan governed by the same Directive. A specific project for environmental restoration and landscaping, starting with the study of the most suitable and native tree species, will allow the establishment of stable plant communities. The restoration will have, among others, the purpose of attracting animal species typical of humid environments, in particular birds. The landscape will act as a meeting point between 'objective' environments (i.e., habitat, ecosystems) and 'subjective' environments, those perceived by the different actors involved.

Ecological Services. An analysis of the opportunities for the environment and the economy provided by FIA will be undertaken. For instance the cultivation of fast-growing trees can turn out an economic benefit for land owners whilst providing an environmental service (e.g. trees for paper production and biomass energy generation).

Cost-benefit analysis of MAR versus conventional solutions for water supply. The potential water banking assumes different management scenarios, incorporating climate change issues and measures to mitigate the impacts of water scarcity and drought on the aquifer, with the purpose to exploit groundwater in a sustainable way in compliance with the WFD 2000/60/CE. A cost-benefit analysis will quantify the effects of MAR with respect to alternative solutions in accordance with the guidelines to the WFD Common Implementation Strategy (CIS) and to the River Basin Management Plans.





Demonstrating Managed
Aquifer Recharge as a
Solution to Water Scarcity
and Drought

An EU FP7 Project



Coordination & Contact:

Prof. Dr. Christoph Schüth

Darmstadt Technical University
Institute of Applied Geosciences
Schnittspahnstr. 9
64287 Darmstadt



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The MARSOL project receives funding from the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme for Research, Technological Development and Demonstration under grant agreement no 619120.

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