Nature-based Solutions on existing infrastructures for resilient Water Management in the Mediterranean

Nature-based Solutions

Full Water Cycle - NbS

In the context of NATMed project, the concept of Full Water-Cycle – NbS (FWC-NbS) is developed. FWC-NbS are based on the integration and combination of several NbS and innovative technologies based on the challenges identified for each Case Study and are implemented in existing infrastructures, both natural and grey, covering distribution and storage systems, to include the whole summer/winter water cycle. This concept is based on the potential of stablishing relations among NbS to work jointly in existing infrastructures, with the aim of increasing the impact related to NbS in the water cycle and water balance.

FWC-NbS foster a new approach to support an integrated water management and the improvement of the water storage and distribution infrastructures through ES provision. The aim is to impact in the entire hydrological process, following circular economy perspectives. FWC-NbS will be co-designed and validated following the IUCN Global Standard to increase their impact, sustainability and replicability.

FWC-NbS are classified in three types depending on the existing water infrastructure in which they are going to be implemented:

– Type A – Superficial storage systems

– Type B – Groundwater storage systems

– Type C – Distribution systems.

FWC-NbS combine specific groups of NbS to be applied on existing water facilities and impact on the entire water cycle, multiplying the co-benefits of NbS implementation. These NbS provide several water-related ES, in particular regarding water quantity and quality, and water-dependant ES related to environmental, social and economic benefits.

In NATMed, five FWC-NbS will be analysed, developed, adapted, tested and validated for upscaling on 5 demonstration areas (Case Studies), located in Carrión de los Céspedes – Spain, Chimaditida – Greece, Arborea – Italy, Bozcaada – Turkey and Oued Righ – Algeria.

1) FWC-NbS 1: Wastewater treatment and storage (Type A + B), to enhance the capacity of grey infrastructures to store treated wastewater while maintaining adequate quality levels, with the aim of reusing it for agriculture irrigation.

2) FWC-NbS 2: Natural wetland complex (Type A+C), strengthen the capability of natural wetlands to store and treat water through natural management and pollution discharge control. It includes the distribution networks of the wetland complex and its use in agriculture.

3) FWC-NbS 3: Aquifer (Type B), to upgrade existing nature-based practices to mitigate groundwater nitrate contamination in an agricultural context.

4) FWC-NbS 4: Aquifer complex (Τype B+C), covering several phases of the water cycle in an island context, from the improvement in distribution networks, groundwater recharge and quality, to soil conservation and irrigation techniques in agriculture.

5) FWC-NbS 5: Surface artificial channels (Type C), aims to improve water quality and quantity in grey distribution infrastructures, promoting restoration practices and pollution discharge protection, and water reuse systems for irrigation to preserve water resources.

NbS description

Constructed Wetlands (CW) are artificial water surface systems with various types of vegetation used for wastewater treatment, relying upon natural microbial, biological, physical and chemical processes. The treated water can be reused with several purposes and avoids discharging polluted water. Surface CW, Subsurface CW (Vertical and Horizontal), and Hybrid systems are the most relevant types, and can work individually, in simultaneous operation or combined.
Floating gardens are self-contained ecological units that can provide habitats for various aquatic and terrestrial species and act as connective corridors between habitats in urban areas. Depending on the type of floating system and the purpose, they can also provide additional benefits such as improve water quality by filtering pollutants or provide additional green spaces.
Livestock grazing has a special value as a management tool for the conservation and restoration of wetlands. A wide variety of wetland habitats can benefit through controlled grazing by increasing the structural diversity of the habitat and by controlling the spread of woody vegetation at the expense of herbaceous and other wetland dimensions. It is a process that slows down or reverses the succession of the wetland system to the barren, while at the same time controlling the dominance of specific plant dimensions at the expense of other less competitive ones. Buffalo have grazing advantages in wetlands, particularly where is used as a wetland management and restoration tool.
The Forested Infiltration Area (FIA) system is a Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) solution and is an effective filter made up of tree roots to mitigate groundwater contamination, especially through dilution processes by using drainage water as recharge water. It is formed by drainage trenches and forested with rows of various trees and/or shrub species. The FIA system is supplied by drainage water filtered by an automatic system to reduce the Total Suspended Solids (TSS) contents before the recharge.
Natural infiltration techniques are a MAR approach for improving groundwater recharge. It is a suitable approach to infiltrate additional water (roof water, treated wastewater, extreme runoff from the natural drainage system, etc.) to aquifers. Infiltration trenches are typically designed to manage and improve the infiltration of water into the soil, often used for water conservation and erosion control.
Recharge wells are structures designed to recharge groundwater aquifers with freshwater in order to prevent seawater intrusion into coastal aquifers. The use of recharge wells is an important strategy in the sustainable management of water resources in coastal areas, as it helps to maintain the balance between freshwater demand and the protection of aquifers against saline water intrusion, which is essential for the availability of drinking water and agriculture in these areas.
The construction of an underground aquifer as a complement to existing groundwater storage systems is a process that involves the recharge and storage of water in the ground for later use.
Riparian buffers are strips of natural or restored vegetation that are located alongside rivers, streams, lakes, or other water bodies. The key features of healthy riparian areas are native trees with deep, soil-binding roots. Grass and shrubs are also important ground covers and bio-filters.
Conservation Agriculture are techniques such as permanent soil cover, conservation tillage, precision fertilizer application, irrigation efficiency, contour cropping, diversification of plant species and agroforestry to achieve minimal soil disturbance, erosion control and nutrient runoff control.
Climate-resilient agriculture refers to farming practices and management systems that are designed and developed with climate change and variability in mind. The main objective of climate-resilient agriculture is to help farmers adapt to changing climatic conditions and to minimise the risks associated with extreme weather events, such as droughts, floods, storms and changes in temperature patterns.

If the distribution systems are obsolete, they imply very high losses of water. Modernising, upgrading and/or monitoring the systems is a way to improve their efficiency and reduce water consumption. An integrated management of water resources involves the coordination of water resources at all levels.

Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) system is a comprehensive and integrated data-based control and monitoring system. With this system, all controls; continuous monitoring of the existing water distribution system, checking the water balance, inlets, and outlets, monitoring leaks and taking immediate action for repairs, and instant reporting of the results can be provided.

Water 4.0 refers to the development of smart irrigation systems based on data analysis in real – time and is supported by artificial intelligence algorithms to improve irrigation efficiency. These systems allow a more efficient use of water by adapting irrigation to local conditions, minimising water wastage and optimising plant growth.
Ultrasound is an alternative method against problems caused by massive proliferation of algae. There are extensive investigations about anti algae effects of ultrasound in laboratory; however, studies carrying on environmental conditions and full scale are scarce, principally in the frame of storage water for irrigation. Likewise, the effect of ultrasound treatment in the E. coli removal in wastewater at real scale are also scarce.