Managed aquifer recharge as adaptation tool to global change: opportunities and ways forward

Catalin Stefan1
1 Forschergruppe INOWAS, Technische Universität Dresden

9.2 in Artificial and natural groundwater recharge (co-organized by IAH-D)

26.03.2020, 14:00-14:15, Händel-Saal

The dramatic effects of global change on water resources worldwide are continuously demonstrated by a fairly large amount of studies. Alarming scientific evidence is frequently published about the disruption of natural water cycle, which leads, among many other effects, to severe depletion of groundwater levels, salinization of soils and aquifers, and increased water pollution levels. In lots of cases though, the reduced capacity of the water systems to cope with global change effects can be compensated through well-designed adaptation techniques. One excellent example is represented by the managed, human-induced recharge of aquifers (managed aquifer recharge – MAR), method which implies the purposeful recharge of groundwater with surface water for subsequent recovery or for environmental benefits. The added-value of this approach lies on the storage of surplus water in the aquifer during periods of high availability, when the urban runoff is abundant, and the possibility of reusing such water during the dry season or in periods of high demand. In comparison with conventional water storage in dams and surface water bodies, MAR provides for less evaporation, minimization of land area required for storage, avoidance of sediments accumulation and protection from direct contamination sources. Over decades, MAR schemes were successfully installed worldwide for a variety of reasons: to maximize the natural storage capacity of aquifers (i.e. seasonal water storage), physical aquifer management (restoration of groundwater levels in overexploited aquifers, reduction of land subsidence and prevention of saltwater intrusion), water quality management (improvement of water quality though soil percolation), ecological benefits (such as maintaining the groundwater levels and flow requirements) and other benefits (such as saving on evaporation, storage of reclaimed water etc.).

The present paper provides a review of most relevant aspects related to the application of managed aquifer recharge such as technical concepts, application fields, legislative frameworks (in Europe and worldwide), assessment of risks associated with MAR operation, as well as the presentation of several representative examples. The evidence provided demonstrates how MAR can be applied in both urban and rural context as successful adaptation measure to global change.

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