Project description

The groundwater discharge of irrigation return flows to the Mar Menor lagoon (Murcia, SE Spain), the largest coastal lagoon in Europe, is among one of the possible causes that would explain the high levels of eutrophication (hypereutrophication) and the several algal blooms accounted in this lagoon ecosystem in the last years. Previous studies, led and/or participated by FutureWater staff (e.g. Contreras et al., 2014; Jiménez-Martínez et al., 2017) suggest that the contribution of groundwater discharges from the Quaternary aquifer to the Mar Menor would reach values much higher than the ones officially recognized.

The construction of subsurface drainage system to intersect the groundwater flows in the surroundings of the lagoon is one of the potential solutions proposed to reduce the load of polluted groundwaters that reach the Mar Menor (Figure 1). Once pumped, these waters can be again reused for irrigation after a desalination and denitrification treatment. A large network of subsurface drainage channels are being currently operated by the Arco Sur-Mar Menor Irrigator Association (Arco Sur IA).

Flows and relationship between the Campo de Cartagena Quaternaty aquifer and the Mar Menor lagoon with (left panel) and without (left panel) a subsurface drainage system.

The Arco-Sur IA has commissioned FutureWater, in collaboration with Hydrogeomodels, this project in order to evaluate the usefulness of these infrastructures, and to explore the possibilities of extending them to the rest of the Campo de Cartagena region. The use of numerical modelling to simulate the groundwater dynamics in the Quaternary aquifer, and to quantify the spatial patterns of groundwater discharge to the Mar Menor lagoon would help to demonstrate the effectiveness of these type of infrastructures, but also to evaluate the best locations and exploitation regimes possible to reduce the discharges to the Mar Menor without compromising the provision of other ecosystem services (e.g. ecological status of coastal wetlands).

The development and calibration of the hydrogeological model for the Quaternary aquifer of the Campo de Cartagena has been rested on an intense collection of all the data available in the region, and their integration with the most advanced hydrological and hydrogeological simulation techniques. This hydrogeological model is considered a key tool to support decision making, and to evaluate the potential effectiveness of different water management strategies proposed for the region (pumping batteries, drainage networks), but also for assessing the potential impacts that would emerge due to land cover and climate change scenarios.

Objective and Methods

The objective of this study is to quantify the water balance in the Campo de Cartagena, to simulate the groundwater flow regime in the Quaternary aquifer, and to evaluate the spatial pattern of groundwater discharge to the Mar Menor lagoon for average and extreme hydrological conditions, through the calibration and implementation of a hydrogeological model.

The project has been organized into four tasks (Figure 2): 1) collection and processing of input data, 2) hydrological modeling, 3) hydrogeological modeling, and 4) reporting and and outreach activities.

Methodological diagram and execution phases.

The Local Action Group (LAG) Campoder CAMPODER at the Murcia Region (SE Spain) is an Association for Rural Development which aims to develop programs, projects and actions for the comprehensive and sustainable development of its territory. These actions encompass activities for the conservation and restoration of the environment, the exploitation and promotion of local resources (agriculture, industry), the improvement of the rural infrastructure, and the conservation and strengthening of the historical, artistic and cultural heritage.

During the period 2014-2020, some of the LAGs at the Murcia Region and their development strategies are going to be redesigned to fit with the priorities set out in the Rural Development Programme and the Europe 2020 Strategy. In this framework, new policies of development should pursue the sustainable management and use of the natural resources, and allow a balanced and inclusive economic development in regards to peri-urban areas.

This project aims to advertise about the environmental assets found in the LAG Campoder, and to quantify using social and economic techniques the degree in which these assets are perceived by local population. The projects has been organized in two tasks:

  • Characterization and description of three representative protected areas located in the GAL Campoder. FutureWater is in charge of this task.
  • Identification, and economic assessment and valuation by choice experiments, of the main management alternatives. This task is addressed by the Polytechnic University of Cartagena and University of Murcia.

A book titled “Caracterization and assessment of development preferences of the main protected areas located at the LAG Campoder” (in Spanish) has been published and can be downloaded from here. A video has been also edited in which the peculiarities and environmental assets of the study region are highlighted.

For more information, please contact with the PI of the project, Francisco Alcón (Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena) or Sergio Contreras (FutureWater).

IMPREX exploits the idea that understanding present-day risks is an effective starting point for adapting to unprecedented future events. Taking into account potential climate trajectories and a collection of experiences in various vulnerable water-related sectors, IMPREX will put current management decisions and practices in the context of an emergent future. In addition, the way in which current operational forecasts of potentially high-impact events at various time scales are utilized can still be improved, not only by enhancing the forecasting skill, but also by customizing the information to the stakeholders’ needs, practice and decision context.

The core elements of IMPREX consist of three interconnected science- and user-oriented actions: (a) an improvement in the forecasting and foresighting tools and climatologies of hydrological extremes, (b) application of these developments in the daily practice of stakeholders across different sectors and regions, and (c) dissemination of the experience gained from the sectoral impact  analyses to a wider audience by means of user-friendly assessment summaries of impact and adaptation strategies, periodic risk outlooks, and bulletins for public communication.

imprex pict
IMPREX will improve predictability at short-medium and seasonal time scales (upper two block arrows), and will develop new concepts to allow translation of the experience with present day events into the future (bottom arrow).

IMPREX will deliver:

  • A measurable improvement in forecast skill of meteorological and hydrological extremes in Europe and their impacts
  • A demonstration of the value of the information on hydrological impacts to relevant stakeholders through a set of representative case studies.
  • Novel risk assessment concepts that respond to limitations of current methods and practices
  • A pan-European assessment of existing and adapted risk management and adaptation strategies
  • A periodic outlook of expected hydrological and water resources (trans-)sectoral risks in Europe linking outputs to existing systems such as the European Flood Awareness System and the European Drought Observatory.

FutureWater leads the coordination of the “Agriculture and Drought” sectoral Work Package. This WP specifically aims to study and evaluate the use of IMPREX weather forecasts and predictions, climate variability, and drought indicators to assess agricultural drought risk and impacts over four case studies and at the pan-European level. An special emphasis will be placed in:

  • improving our understanding on the relationships between climate variability, hydrological drought indicators, and agricultural production and losses and, finding these relations in four Mediterranean case basins
  • developing downscaling methods in order to provide agricultural drought indicators useful at the basin level and according to the specific needs of the case study basins and their currently operational drought management systems.
  • designing appropriate tools and communication/dissemination channels for generating effective and transparent drought alerts to water managers and stakeholders in the agricultural sector.
  • quantifying the impact of changing rainfall, evapotranspiration and atmospheric recycling dynamics on water fluxes, flows, stocks, consumption and the provision of services to agriculture for the major basins of Europe using a generic analytical framework (WA+).



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

Approximately 22 million tons of citrus crops, 20% of total world production, are produced in the Mediterranean region. Historically, Citrus-dominated agrosystems have been concentrated in the valleys where the most fertile soils are located and a higher and easier access to surface or groundwater is possible. However, over the last decades, the adoption of new technologies and irrigation strategies (pressurized irrigation and deficit irrigation techniques) has promoted the expansion of the cropped areas to less favorable locations. Currently there are more than 300,000 hectares of citrus in Spain.

Eddy-covariance system at a Citrus orchard in Campo de Cartagena (Murcia, Spain). Photo by Bernardo Martín.

Better quantitative knowledge on the actual water requirements and the environmental drivers that control the productivity and the carbon footprint of these agrosystems are required to secure the sustainability of these cropping systems in the Mediterranean region. For this reason, during 5 years, the Agroforestry Engineering department of the Polytechnic University of Cartagena (UPCT) measured using the Eddy-covariance technique the water and carbon fluxes in three Citrus commercial farms located in the Campo de Cartagena (Murcia, Spain).

The main objective of CITRIFLUX project is to quantify the water and carbon balance of Citrus orchards using a combination of field and Eddy-covariance measurements, and satellite observations. FutureWater supported this project and carried out the following tasks:
1) analyze the daily dynamics of water, energy and carbon in the selected pilot sites,
2) identify and quantify the influence of the main environmental drivers of water and carbon balance,
3) calibrate empirical relationships and production models for estimating actual evapotranspiration, and gross and net primary productivity gross, from field-based weather inputs, and satellite-based variables (greenness vegetation indices, albedo and land surface temperature).

SIRRIMED project will address issues related to sustainable use of water in Mediterranean irrigated agricultural systems, with the overall aim of optimizing irrigation water use. The approach proposed in SIRRIMED for reaching this goal will be based in an Integrated Water Irrigation Management (IWIM) where the improved water use efficiency will be considered at farm, irrigation district and watershed scales. These strategies include innovative and more efficient irrigation techniques for improving water productivity and allow savings in water consumption. SIRRIMED will consider the development, test and validation of new deficit irrigation strategies, the sustainable and safe use of poor quality waters and the improvement of precise irrigation scheduling using plant sensors. These new techniques will be integrated with suitable husbandry irrigation practices. At the district scale, efforts should be directed towards an integrated policy of water allocation which accounts for the characteristics and specificity of each farm, requiring the availabity of data bases and efficient management tools (decision support systems) specifically designed to fulfil the objectives of maximizing water use efficiency. At the watershed scale, priority is devoted to the assessment of new models of water governance, and the definition of strategies and policies aimed at promoting a more responsible use of irrigation water. Finally, SIRRIMED will establish a sound dissemination strategy for transfer of knowledge towards the end users, with a real partipatory approach to facilitate an adequate involvement of stakeholders (farmers, association of irrigation users, water authorities and SMEs).

FutureWater has been actively involved in the development of a District Information System (DIS) and a Watershed Information System (WIS) for the Campo de Cartagena case study area.

The proposed DIS will be developed from a GIS-based modelling approach which integrates a generic crop model and a hydraulic model of the transport/distribution system, and will use remote sensing information. The objectives are (i) the development of an operational algorithm to retrieve crop evapotranspiration from remote sensing data, (ii) the development of an information system with friendly user interface for the data base, the crop module and the hydraulic module (WP4 deliverables) and (iii) the analysis and validation of management scenarios from model simulations predicting the respective behaviour of the on-farm and off-farm systems. The overall objective of WP4 is the harmonisation of on-farm and off-farm management by means of a District Information System (DIS) which could be used by stakeholders at purposes of district day-to-day management as well as for planning and strategic decision-making.

The watershed information system (WIS) combines the objectives of acquiring and synthesising the information required for (i) environmental assessment of irrigation activities and (ii) regional planning of water resources, both on catchment scale. In particular, the tool will be designed to supply synthetic and quantitative outputs of the different components of the catchment hydrologic balance, and to diagnose the likely impact of irrigation water use on the quantity and quality of water resources downstream of the irrigation schemes. The development of an information system at the watershed level is a prerequisite for proposing, in the future, strategies of water use and distribution accounting for limited regional water resources and for a limitation of environmental perturbation that can be induced by irrigation activities.

For more information, please visit the SIRRIMED website. Find here a link to the Watershed Information System (WIS) for the Campo de Cartagena.

Most European countries are affected by the consequences of water scarcity, droughts and land degradation caused by water resources over-exploitation and exacerbated by climate change. Implications hereof are plenty, including changes in river flows and seasonality, land-use changes and extensive water withdrawals. Most probably water scarcity, droughts and desertification (e.g. the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas) will increase further, although some basins will be much more affected than others. One of these is the Segura River Basin in southeastern Spain.


Currently, there is broad consensus that urgent action is needed to promote water savings, exchanges of information and best practices on water scarcity & drought risk management. The majority of measures applied so far by the Member States of the EU target pressures, state and impacts and only very few measures target key drivers. Against this background, the European Commission decided to support various preparatory actions and pilots on the development of prevention activities to halt desertification in Europe, of which ASSET is one of the pilot projects.

Overall, the ASSET project will complement the EU water resources balance at the local scale and will demonstrate how the water resources balance contributes to a better river basin management. The specific objectives are:
a) Collect and assess data on the physical water availability, interbasin transfers of water, and consumption rates by the different users and economic sectors in the Segura River Basin. The environmental and socioeconomic data collected will be presented according the standardized format of the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting for Water (SEEA-Water) developed by the United Nations and adopted by all the EU-member countries through their National Accounting Systems.
b) Test several innovative methodologies to improve the closure of the water balances at the sub-basin scale in order to increase the accuracy of the water accounts (Figure 1).
c) To integrate all the available data into the River Basin Management Plan through a Geographic Information System and the sharing of a protocol for the exchange, transfer and dissemination of information.
d) Identify and evaluate the effectiveness of a set of different management measures, including technological and economic, to reduce the vulnerability of the Segura River Basin and its socio-economic development against periods of water scarcity and severe drought, and against future scenarios of land use and climate change.

Sankey diagram showing the interchanged fluxes between the hydrological and the economical system, and values of water use and supply of the main groups of activity in the Segura River Basin. Data on 2010 in million of cubic meters.


Project website

This project identifies opportunities for innovative solutions that decrease local fresh water shortages in economic vulnerable regions under increasing water stress (droughts, salinization). Solutions like climate adaptive drainage, aquifer storage and recovery and levee bank infiltration are considered innovations that strengthen regional agricultural economy and reduce water stress due to climate change. The project has three components:

  1. Analysis of a drought and salinization prone region: what water shortages now and under climate change will occur in the region; what agricultural production is economically most vital to the region; how can geographical/climatological and soil characteristics support different adaptation measures.
  2. Making maps for the region that define the potential success rate of various kinds of fresh water solutions.
  3. Building business cases for the use of fresh water solutions, on a local scale, with and for farmers, private companies that manufacture and install technical infrastructure and regional governments (water management agency; agricultural agency).
Location of the study area

This project builds upon more than 4 years of research and pilots within the Knowledge for Climate program in the Netherlands in which various measures to increase local fresh water availability were extensively investigated, tested in the field with several agricultural entrepreneurs and companies providing the technical infrastructure. In this project a number of successful (in terms of effectiveness and economic feasibility) pilots have been carried out with local technologies and much practical knowledge has been gained on the costs and benefits of these innovations. For up scaling purposes this knowledge has been incorporated in a toolbox called the Fresh Water Options Optimizer (FWOO). The FWOO explores the potential for solutions that deal with water shortage, either caused by drought or limitations in fresh water supply. These solutions are primarily adaptive, but can also be used to create conditions for farming higher grade, more profitable crops. The project covers both a supply side and a demand side need. It is stimulating a portfolio of innovative technologies that improves freshwater.

The basis for the FWOO consists of a method to produce maps that pinpoint where conditions are less or more suitable for local fresh water solutions that secure the water supply of farmers and decrease their vulnerability to periods of drought or stalling water supply. Moreover, the FWOO hands a method to asses other physical factors that determine the success and quantitative potential of local solutions, like interference between solutions, the interaction with surface water quality, the current or future water management strategy and seasonal aspects.

Map of the study area

The project will demonstrate the business potential of fresh water solutions for a case study area with intensive agriculture within the Valencia region, Spain. Also, within the project knowledge and experiences are shared with stakeholders from Italy’s Emilia Romagna region, where similar challenges are present and potential for local fresh water solutions exist. In this way this region is offered the  occasion to prepare also for innovation pilots in a follow up stage.

Droughts are prolonged periods in which precipitation amounts are relatively low. The term drought is a relative concept whose definition depends on the geographic and physical domain considered. We distinguish among: a) Meteorological droughts, i.e. extended periods with rainfall values below the average, b) Agricultural droughts when the reduction in soil moisture affects crop production, c) Hydrological droughts when the availability of water in rivers, surface reservoirs and aquifers are reduced, and d) Socioeconomic droughts when this period of low rainfall impacts directly on the human productive systems. The increase in the frequency, intensity and severity of droughts are expected to reduce the ability of our societies to cope with those impacts, threatening their water and food security.


To ensure the environmental and socioeconomic sustainability of semi-arid regions in the world, under climate and land use changes and more recurrent and larger droughts, we need better tools that are able to: a) anticipate and alert us about their onset, and b) predict, and to supply key information on how to effectively manage and mitigate their potential consequences. Nowadays, an increasing amount of satellite data is becoming available for this purpose. Also, computing facilities are becoming more powerful to process these data and incorporate the latest knowledge on the processes involved and possible impacts. At the same time, a major challenge is to to integrate and interpret these data in synthetically, fast and efficient way, and present it in such a way that it becomes useful for the end-user.

The GEISEQ project aims to develop a Decision Support System for Drought Management integrating a set of tools for: a) the detection, surveillance and monitoring of drought periods, b) the prediction and spatial analysis of their potential impacts, and c) supporting users and decision makers on the best and more efficient management strategies available to mitigate drought consequences. The outcome of the GEISEQ project is a toolbox which makes an efficient use of the data available in the cloud, a set of environmental simulation models, and the human-decision domain through the combination of GIS applications, satellite data acquisition and processing tools, and the adoption of data assimilation techniques.




In many areas of Southern Spain and other Mediterranean Countries, there is scope for improving the productivity of presently irrigated lands, even if the cost of irrigation water increases. Increasing the productivity of water in agriculture holds a key to mitigating the impact of water scarcity due to natural (drought events) or human over-consumption. A common perception is that increasing water productivity of irrigated agriculture in arid areas is among the most efficient water policies to fight desertification and rural exodus.

In the frame of the EC-DGE programme called ‘Halting desertification in Europe’, the REDSIM proposal addresses the topics “Water savings/water efficiency measures’ and ‘alternative forms of irrigation’. More precisely, REDSIM deals with the development of management technologies and tools to improve land and water productivity in arid agricultural lands, at farm and watershed levels.

The objective of REDSIM is to improve Irrigation Water Productivity (IWP) in several water-stressed watersheds (Upper Guadiana and Segura), by developing and validating Information and Advisory Systems based on remote sensing data and simplified water balance and crop models to assist growers in implementing and managing efficiently deficit irrigation (DI) techniques.

Outcomes of REDSIM will feed into the EU Policy Review of the Strategy for Water Scarcity and Droughts, which will be integrated in a “Blueprint to safeguard European waters”, to be finalized by the end of 2012.

Final products

Other outcomes

Press coverage

Project presentation