Underground water storage systems collect fresh water during wet periods. That is particularly important in areas where freshwater supplies from rivers are inadequate. When there are serious shortages, that water is vital to maintain our food supplies, drinking water and quality of life. In coastal areas, adequate fresh groundwater supplies of good-quality cannot be taken for granted, either in the Netherlands or elsewhere in the world. However, by using the subsurface, we can safeguard freshwater supplies: this has been proven by the results of the GO-FRESH project (Geohydrological Opportunities Fresh Water Supply) that we conducted in Zeeland, the south western part of the Netherlands.
Produced by: Beeldtaal
In GO-FRESH, we teamed up with our partners for a period of three years to test different techniques for underground water storage - also known as Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) - in an area with large amounts of brackish groundwater. By infiltrating surface water during wet periods into the right aquifers using both passive and active techniques, we established a fresh groundwater buffer. It has now been shown that, in physical terms, it is entirely feasible to increase fresh groundwater reserves. And, because of the natural purification capacity of the subsurface, the quality of the fresh groundwater actually improves, too.
These solutions help, among others, farmers. If they wish, they could even consider switching to capital-intensive crops such as fruit or bulbs. In addition, there is also international potential. The knowledge developed was used successfully in 2014 on Jurong Island in Singapore, where we used the monitoring techniques and numerical models to optimise the management of local reservoirs of fresh groundwater. In other projects, like those in Bangladesh, Vietnam and the Nile Delta, it would only seem to be a question of time before aquifer storage and recovery is accepted as one of the local solutions for maintaining freshwater supplies in the changing coastal areas and deltas.
From the idea that aquifer storage and recovery may work, to clear evidence in the field: a fantastic result!
Theory, practical knowledge, models, measurements and communications were indispensable links in the valorisation of the GO-FRESH systems.
I am looking forward to the application of our GO-FRESH systems in other deltas and the improvement of freshwater supplies over there.