Most recent research has focused on identifying historical megadroughts based on paleo-records and understanding their climatic causes, or on the study of “modern” events and their impacts, generally in lowland and plain regions. However, high-mountain regions and snow-dependent catchments have been little studied, and little is known about the impact of megadroughts on the state and dynamics of the cryosphere in mountain water towers.  

In general, catchments dependent on high mountain systems have an intrinsic capacity to buffer the lack of precipitation and excess evapotranspiration that depends on the water reserves stored in the cryosphere (snow, glaciers and permafrost). It is presumed that the this buffer capacity is limited until a tipping point is reached from which the impacts of water shortages and temperature extremes may be amplified and jeopardize the functioning of ecosystems and water resource systems. 

MegaWat has a two-fold objective: 1) to address the knowledge gaps around the hydro-climatic causes of extreme droughts and their impact on the water balance of Europe’s mountain water towers, with special emphasis on the concurrence of compound events and cascading and multi-scale effects, and 2) to develop and propose new adaptation strategies to cope with the duration, extent and severity of future megadroughts and their potential impacts on environmental and socio-economic assets.  

For its implementation, MegaWat focuses on Europe’s high mountain regions and their dependent-catchments. MegaWat aims to develop three products:  

  • Product 1. A methodological framework for the identification and characterization of historical megadroughts during the instrumental period, and the assessment of the role of the cryosphere in supporting the landscape development of downstream areas, or in buffering climate change impacts. Product 1 relies on a combination of climate regionalization, surface energy balance modelling, hydrological simulation, and water evaluation and allocation analysis at the catchment level (Figure 1).  
  • Product 2. A high-resolution, open-access regionalized climate database.  
  • Product 3. A list of potential adaptation strategies useful for the prevention and mitigation of drought impacts, and the enhancement of the water security and resilience of high mountain regions and dependent catchments. These scenarios will be agreed with regional and local actors and stakeholders, and their effectiveness will be evaluated under extreme drought scenarios in three pilot regions in Europe. These pilot regions will be previously selected following criteria of representativeness, strategic importance and vulnerability to droughts.  

FutureWater plays an important role in MegaWat by coordinating the Work Package which aims to develop and test simulation tools that help to adapt to megadroughts and support the decision making process. Two specific objectives are pursued in this Work Package: a) the development of a methodological prototype for quantifying impacts and identifying tipping points for water security in snow-dependent downstream catchments, and b) the generation and the integration of snow drought indicators in the FW’s Drought Early Warning System called InfoSequia (Figure 2). 

Schematic representation of a high mountain basin, including the main components, processes and impacts related to droughts. 
Workflow of the InfoSequia Early Warning System developed by FutureWater and adapted for the detection of tipping-points of water scarcity in snow-dependent catchments. More information about InfoSequia.

One-pager can be downloaded here.


This project has received funding from the Water4All programme with co-funding from CDTI (Spanish Office for Science and Technology) and the EU’s Horizon Europe Framework Programme for Research and Innovation”. 

Groundwater is one of the most important freshwater resources for mankind and for ecosystems. Assessing groundwater resources and developing sustainable water management plans based on this resource is a major field of activity for science, water authorities and consultancies worldwide. Due to its fundamental role in the Earth’s water and energy cycles, groundwater has been declared as an Essential Climate Variable (ECV) by GCOS, the Global Climate Observing System. The Copernicus Services, however, do not yet deliver data on this fundamental resource, nor is there any other data source worldwide that operationally provides information on changing groundwater resources in a consistent way, observation-based, and with global coverage. This gap will be closed by G3P, the Global Gravity-based Groundwater Product.

The G3P consortium combines key expertise from science and industry across Europe that optimally allows to (1) capitalize from the unique capability of GRACE and GRACE-FO satellite gravimetry as the only remote sensing technology to monitor subsurface mass variations and thus groundwater storage change for large areas, (2) incorporate and advance a wealth of products on storage compartments of the water cycle that are part of the Copernicus portfolio, and (3) disseminate unprecedented information on changing groundwater storage to the global and European user community, including European-scale use cases of political relevance as a demonstrator for industry potential in the water sector. In combination, the G3P development is a novel and cross-cutting extension of the Copernicus portfolio towards essential information on the changing state of water resources at the European and global scale. G3P is timely given the recent launch of GRACE-FO that opens up the chance for gravity-based time series with sufficient length to monitor climate-induced and human-induced processes over more than 20 years, and to boost European space technology on board these satellites.

In this project, FutureWater is in charge of a case which aims to prototype and calibrate a Groundwater Drought Index based on the G3P product, and to integrate it into InfoSequia, the FutureWater’s in-house Drought Early Warning System. The new InfoSequia component will be tested for inherent reliability and flexibility at the basin level in a total area of about 145 000 km2 in Southern Spain which largely relies on groundwater resources. This pilot region comprises three large basins (Segura, Guadalquivir and Guadiana) with many aquifers and groundwater bodies where very severe dynamics of overexploitation and mining have been identified and declared. Unsustainable groundwater development threats the water security in the region, but also the ecological status and preservation of unique and highly protected ecosystems in Europe (e.g., Doñana National Park, Daimiel National Park, Mar Menor coastal lagoon).

To visit the official G3P website, please click on this link:

Recent studies from the IPCC indicate that Europe is particularly prone to increased risks of river and coastal floods, droughts resulting in water restrictions and damages from extreme weather such as heat events and wildfires. Evaluations also show a huge potential to reduce these risks with novel adaptation strategies. Researchers, innovators and incubators develop innovative products and services to reduce the increased climate change risks. Many of these innovations however hardly arrive at the markets. BRIGAID BRIdges the GAp for Innovations in Disaster resilience.

The BRIGAID’s initiative is supported by three pillars:

  1. BRIGAID takes into account the geographical variability of climate-related hazards and their interaction with socio-economic changes,
  2. BRIGAID establishes structural, on-going support for innovations that are ready for validation in field tests and real life demonstrations and
  3. BRIGAID develops a framework that enables an independent, scientific judgement of the socio-technological effectiveness of an innovation.
BRIGAID’s conceptual approach

Particularly, this project (a) brings actively together innovators and end-users in Communities of Innovation, resulting in increased opportunities for market-uptake; (b) contributes to the development of a technological and performance standards for adaptation options by providing a Test and Implementation Framework (TIF) and test facilities throughout Europe; (c) Improves innovation capacity and the integration of new knowledge by establishing an innovators network and (d) strengthens the competitiveness and growth of companies with the support of a dedicated business team. Finally BRIGAID aims to develop business models and market outreach to launch innovations to the market and secure investments in innovations beyond BRIGAID’s lifetime.

In the frame of BRIGAID, FutureWater will contribute in two ways. Firstly, leading the coordination of the Work Package on Droughts which is aimed to make an intensive stocktaking, testing, and business development process for at least 30 drought solutions.  Secondly, playing an active role as an innovator agent with the inclusion of two particular solutions: a) The Infosequia drought operational platform for the surveillance and integral management of droughts, and b) the use of flying sensors as important tools to detect drought-related impacts on crops, and to support precision agriculture and smart farming.

Project presentation

System-Risk is a Marie-Skłodowska-Curie European Training Network which aims on developing and implementing a systems approach for large-scale flood risk assessment and management and provides a framework for training and career development of 15 Early Stage Researchers (ESRs).

ETNParticularly, national and regional policy development adhering to the solidarity principle anchored in the European Flood Directive as well as the insurance industry require tools to assess and manage flood risk at large scales, from the larger river basin to the European scale. Yet, the majority of flood research has centered on small- to meso-scale catchments and, to date, such requirements have usually been addressed by piecing together small-scale solutions. Today, increased data availability, new numerical algorithms and dramatically higher computer performance enable large-scale analyses and modelling which were not feasible a few years ago.

System-Risk performs leading-edge research with spotlights on three essential pillars of flood risk research:

  • Risk chain: considering the complete risk chain from the Sources through the Pathways to the Receptors and Consequences.
  • Interactions: augmenting the ‘Source-Pathway-Receptors and Consequences‘ model by putting interactions centre stage and, in this way, replacing the traditional linear approach of the risk chain by a more realistic approach with interdependent linkages between physical and societal processes which finally shape the spatio-temporal flood risk.
  • Temporal dynamics: investigating the time-varying nature of flood risk and its components on different time scales as for instance hours to days when flood defense failures change flood probabilities, months to years when people learn from damaging floods and improve private precaution and decades to centuries when human settlements in floodplains evolve.

System-Risk is composed of 15 Early Stage Research Projects (ESRs) organized in three scientific work packages complemented by training, dissemination and management. These WPs are:

  • Atmosphere-Catchment-System (WP1)
  • River-Dike-Floodplain System (WP2)
  • Socio-Economic System (WP3)

System-Risk brings together research and training at ten leading centres of flood research in Europe and embeds partnerships with eight partners from the industry and administration in five countries.

In collaboration with the Royal Meteorological Institute (KNMI), FutureWater will be the hosting institute for ESR1, which is part of WP1. This ESR will focus on the “Development of Future Weather techniques for flood risk assessment”. The ESR shall focus on the interplay between meteo- and hydrological factors leading to extreme floods under present and future climate. It is expected that the ESR will develop methods and tools for deriving consistent, large-scale flood scenarios and quantifying their uncertainty. The developed methods and tools will be validated for three case-study basins.

Follow the System-Risk project on Twitter:

The recently released fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts and ongoing warming trend in Europe. Specifically Southern Europe as well as the Mediterranean region are likely to suffer from prolonged drought spells in summer in the decades ahead. The Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) also predicts that droughts will be more regularly manifested at the northern latitudes. The climate scenarios suggest that drier summers will plague Western Europe, intermitted by wetter winter seasons. At the European scale water shortages and drought also receive increasingly more attention. The EU water framework directive, as well as other EU water policy documents, are all based on sufficient per capita water availability and of water of good quality.

Over the last decade, various tools based on Remote Sensing (RS) techniques from satellites to assist land management have been developed. The EU is working on standard products for land; including an EU land cover map (e.g. Corine, Pelcom), crop yield forecasting (CGMS) and soil erosion. Yet, there are no real products dedicated for water management applications, In the early days of RS, images were mainly used qualitatively, but the increase in accuracy of sensors and especially a better understanding of processes, have evolved in the development of quantitative algorithms to convert raw data into useful information. In recent years an increasing number of Remotely Sensed datasets and algorithms relevant to water managers have emerged. It is now feasible to quantify (i) evapotranspiration and top soil moisture, (ii) precipitation and (iii) changes in groundwater storage based on RS. This project upgrades these research algorithms to an operational water management product.