Innovative solutions for securement of fresh water supplies

November 15, 2018

Fresh water is becoming in short supply in many areas worldwide due to a growing population, increased agricultural activity, and a changing climate.

The shortage of fresh water is especially an issue in coastal areas where depletion of groundwater causes salt water intrusion in aquifers. Subsurface Water Solutions (SWS) address this issue with low-cost solutions that can easily be adjusted to different natural environments. Nevertheless, as water management often involves several stakeholders, it is crucial to take the local needs into account prior to implementation of SWSs. To do this, the Danish Board of Technology (DBT) has, as partner in the SubSol project, made policy briefs that outline the local barriers and suggests accompanying recommendations for five areas that faces ground water depletion.

Mapping the obstacles
The aim of the policy briefs, that were carried out for Pernambuco in Brazil, Baja California in Mexico, Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, Laizhou Bay in China and Cyprus, were to support local authorities, water companies, research institutions and other stakeholders prior to decision-making regarding SWSs. To meet this aim, the policy briefs outline the institutional capacities and legal framework in order to identify potential barriers for implementation. On this basis, the policy briefs suggest recommendations on how to overcome the barriers.

Agreeing on a test site

A general barrier identified in the policy briefs, concerns unclear or rigorous regulation on groundwater recharge, as well as local concern regarding degradation of water quality as a consequence of groundwater recharge. To overcome this barrier, a general recommendation to the local authorities was to grant exemption for a pilot project in order to provide the needed documentation for the sanitary feasibility of artificial recharge with SWS schemes, and the potential benefits of a full-scale implementation of SWSs. This recommendation should of course be accompanied with continuous documentation and monitoring of the water quality. The policy briefs also identified several locally rooted barriers and recommendations which emphasises the importance of taking the local needs as the starting point for an implementation of SWSs.

Step by step guide
In addition to the policy briefs, SubSol have made four pilot studies with the aim of developing a methodology for stakeholder engagement in a social and political assessment of SWSs. The pilot studies were carried out in Denmark, The Netherlands, Greece and Mexico where local stakeholders were invited to discuss the possibilities and challenges regarding SWSs. On the basis of the four pilot studies, the DBT made a solution package including a step-by-step guide for participatory Technology Assessment (pTA) of Subsurface Water Solutions. pTA is a methodological toolbox for stakeholder engagement in the assessment of a given technology. The solution package emphasises, that tools and methods for stakeholder engagement cannot be directly transferred from one context to another. Thus, it is crucial to analyse the local needs and align the pTA to the specific socio-political context. The policy briefs are a good way of analysing the needs of the local stakeholders and can with advantage be carried out for other areas that face issues regarding fresh water management.


Read more about SUBSOL at the SUBSOL Project website.