Objective 6 of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals calls for the universal and equitable access to clean water. Achieving this goal requires an improved water use efficiency and conserving existing water resources.
Sustainable water use entails a better understanding of how important water resources will be affected by developments such as climate change. The European Commission points to significant weaknesses in the risk assessment of karst aquifers, which are particularly vulnerable to climate change due to their high variability. Over the past 20 years, the economic impact of droughts in karst catchments of the Mediterranean region has been five times higher than the economic impact of droughts in the USA.
One approach to improved risk assessment and a more sustainable water use is the application of forecast models. These models differ in their spatial and temporal resolutions, their calculation of water flow and soil moisture, their consideration of climatic variability, as well as their representation of feedback processes with the vegetation. Radar-based remote sensing data provide valuable information for the development of these groundwater models. At present, there are only few models for the Mediterranean region which are able to calculate the water balance while also taking changes in land use, water exports and climate change into account.
In the MedWater project, forecast models of karst aquifers represent a central component for the sustainable use of these systems. The models allow for
- the quantitative and thus objective analysis of the systems,
- the prognosis of the short- and long-term development of the systems as a function of external factors (such as land use or climate change), and
- the assessment of different water use and distribution strategies.
The development of a model-based optimization concept will provide the basis for improving water use efficiency, conserving existing water resources and ensuring equitable access to water for all people.