It is estimated that due to climatic changes only about 50 percent of today's amount of water will be available in the Mediterranean region by 2100 - while the population continues to grow. The lack of water will result in drought and crop losses.
Together with 20 research institutions and companies from 7 countries, the TU Darmstadt is developing a new approach to address the water shortage over the long term in the recently started MARSOL project (Demonstrating Managed Aquifer Recharge as a Solution to Water Scarcity and Draught). The basic idea is simple: Collect water when there is too much of it and store it for dry times in "aquifers" - layers of soil that can contain groundwater. This "soil storage" works even under deserts. So far, there was no good way to store huge water masses.
MARSOL deals with the superordinate questions involved in the method - risks, water quality, and technical feasibility, but also the challenges of EU administrative law in the implementation. For this purpose, the project is examining - at eight field sites in Greece, Portugal, Spain, Malta, Italy and Israel - the different specific ways water of varying origins and qualities (such as desalinated ocean water, river water, and treated wastewater) can be stored in the ground with different techniques. The overall project is being coordinated by Professor Dr. Christoph Schüth at the Institute for Applied Geosciences in the Department of Materials and Earth Sciences at the TU Darmstadt.
The Darmstadt researchers are also participating scientifically in the practical case studies of the project. For example, they are involved in a project for recovering water from sewage in a wastewater treatment plant in Athens; the treated water can be stored and used later for e.g. irrigation in agriculture. In Israel, seawater desalination plants produce more water in the rainy season than is actually needed; previously, this could not be stored. "The nice fresh water was lost" says Christoph Schüth. He is therefore cooperating with his colleagues in the area of storing the excess water in the soil beneath the desert. "There is plenty of storage space there."
As one of eleven demonstration projects to address water technology innovation, MARSOL is being funded with 5.2 million euros for three years by the European Commission. The EU sees the conservation of water quality and the fight against foreseeable shortages as one of the "most pressing current problems," as EU Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said recently. The projects now being funded "will help to find innovative solutions."
An obvious goal in the EU announcement was therefore to demonstrate the feasibility of the concepts. "The EU plans to extensively use the studied methods in the future" says Christoph Schüth. "With MARSOL, we want to show that storage in aquifers is possible and reliable. This can be a significant contribution to mitigate water scarcity."
Technische Universität Darmstadt Institut für Angewandte Geowissenschaften Prof. Christoph Schüth Tel. +49(0)6151/16-2071 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
MI No. 08e/2014, sip