We-Need project

Freshwater access is fundamental in key aspects of human life. Groundwater is a strategic resource for drinking water supply and is essential for ecosystem quality, energy and food security. This natural resource is endangered by several factors, including over-exploitation and contamination by anthropogenic activities.

Freshwater access is fundamental in key aspects of human life. Groundwater is a strategic resource for drinking water supply and is essential for ecosystem quality, energy and food security. This natural resource is endangered by several factors,
including over-exploitation and contamination by anthropogenic activities. These elements severely affect the water-energy-food nexus, with critical environmental, sociological and economic consequences. WE-NEED (WatEr NEEDs, availability, quality and sustainability) is a 3-year project financed under the ERA-NET WaterWorks2014 Cofunded Call. The project started on 20th April 2016. It is co-ordinated by the Politecnico di Milano (Prof. Monica Riva, Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering) and includes as partners the Weizmann Institute of Science (PI: Prof. Brian Berkowitz, Dept. of Earth and Planetary Sciences), the Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya (PI: Prof. Daniel Fernandez Garcia, Dept. of Civil Engineering and Environmental) and the Universidade de Aveiro (PI: Prof. Susana Loureiro, Dept. Biology & Centre for Environmental and Marine Studies).
The goal of WE-NEED is to develop new management strategies to assist in the sustainable use of two key components of groundwater resources: pumping wells, used to obtain water for drinking purposes, and natural springs, typically employed for crop irrigation as well as for recreational use. We adopt a probabilistic risk assessment approach aimed at increasing confidence in decision making through quantification of risk. Activities are grounded on observations linked to two sites in Italy.

These sites are archetypal of two distinct realities and can be considered representative of diverse environmental settings and conditions of Europewide interest. During the first 18 months, the WENEED team has collected and analyzed available geological and hydrological data for the two field sites and developed flow models characterized by increasing complexity. The impact of uncertain parameters and boundary conditions on (i) aquifer characterization and (i) the uncertainty in predicting target variables has been assessed.
A new statistical model for the interpretation of hydrological properties has been developed. The model allows one to estimate, accurately and efficiently, all relevant hydrogeological parameters by analyzing jointly sample moments of data and incremental series.
Protocols for synthesis, characterization and detection of several emerging contaminants
have been developed and ecotoxicity tests have been performed. Planned future activities of WE-NEED include the quantification of the effect of multiple sources of uncertainty on sustainable management and protection of groundwater. These will lead to (i) assessment of the contaminant-specific vulnerability of aquifer systems, and (ii) improved, physically-based risk assessment and water management protocols, and (iii) assess the environmental effects of complex chemical mixtures.

Modelling under uncertainitly