Towards Sustainable Water Use on Mediterranean Islands: Addressing Conflicting Demands and Varying Hydrological, Social and Economic Conditions
The availability of water in the Mediterranean in sufficient quantities and adequate quality represents a significant problem of European dimension. This is due to a number of factors which include: the over-exploitation of existing aquifers by various users, insufficient recharge due to diminishing precipitation, excessive and inadequate use through agricultural activities or tourism, significant deficits in water management and distribution schemes and conflicting or unresolved demands and interests between various users, to name just a few. These problems are exacerbated on the islands in the Mediterranean because of their isolation and thus the impossibility to draw on more distant or more divers aquifers in general and because of the threat of saline intrusions, which reduce the utilisation of existing, near-shore aquifers in particular. Consequently, some islands (e.g., Mallorca or Cyprus) because of the inability to cope with the existing water resources on the island have resorted to extremely costly measures such as sea water desalination or the transport of freshwater from the mainland to the island with tankers. While the availability, demand and distribution of water on each island are determined by specific conditions, there are a number of attributes common to all Mediterranean islands which call for the formulation of generic solutions to the above mentioned problems. Such solutions are also pertinent in the context of the Water Framework Directive (WFD), which came into force on 22. 12. 2000.
Because most of these problems are mutually related and interdependent, solutions will only be derived through holistic considerations. This calls for a high degree of interdisciplinarity and renders mono-disciplinary studies almost useless. Moreover, endurable solutions will only be found through recommendations and/or regulations that are based on mutually agreed principles between the stakeholders involved. This requires a stakeholder-based participatory process that builds on the results of scientific investigations on the one hand and on the consent of major stakeholders on the other. Only an approach combining interdisciplinarity and stakeholder involvement, which is central to MEDIS (Towards sustainable water use on Mediterranean Islands: addressing conflicting demands and varying hydrological, social and economic conditions) will result in water management practices that are both sustainable and acceptable/equitable.
The overall goal of MEDIS is to contribute towards the sustainable use of water on islands of the Mediterranean where conflicting demand for water is combined with a wide range of hydrological, social and economic conditions. The study will be carried out in one typical catchment each on Corsica, Crete, Cyprus, Mallorca and Sicily. Based on interdisciplinary investigations involving, hydrology, spatial analysis (geo-informatics) and geophysics, improved methodologies for the characterisation of- and basic data on aquifers and the monitoring of water consumption, recharge and safe field will be developed/derived. Because agriculture represents the major user of water on most Mediterranean islands (except for Mallorca, where water demand is highest for tourism), improved agricultural practices that enable smaller water consumption will be recommended. A stakeholder analysis and the collection and examination of information on water demand by various stakeholders in conjunction with the physical data will be used in a decision support system employing multi-criteria analysis in order to derive various mutually agreeable water distribution schemes in a participatory bottom-up approach. This will form the basis for recommendations on equitable and sustainable water management practices under current and possibly decreased precipitation rates resulting from climate change. By carrying out this project on five islands that cover the Mediterranean from west to east and by enabling a dialogue between scientists and stakeholders as well as between principal stakeholders from each island, these recommendations will embrace generic solutions based on the collective experiences of the residents on all islands. Thus, MEDIS will not only enable improved water management practices on each of the islands considered, but will contribute to the implementation of the WFD on Mediterranean islands.
It is expected that MEDIS will deliver: extensive maps, databases and electronic atlases of current water resources/supply, water demands and recharge for the islands under investigation; recommendations/ guidelines for best practices in agriculture in order to mitigate the inefficient use of water; a detailed analysis and evaluation of the social and economic impacts of current water management practices, the water demands of major stakeholders, and their perception on water and water availability in general; recommendations and/or guidelines for the implementation of an infrastructure for a stakeholder-based, participatory process leading to sustainable and equitable water distribution schemes on the Mediterranean islands.
These objectives are realistic, because MEDIS will be carried out by a consortium of partners who have gained extensive experience in earlier studies addressing comparable problems. Moreover, we will seek collaboration with external experts and other ongoing projects in order to improve our investigations and to avoid undue overlap.