The research experience and interest of the FNCA team includes, among others, the following lines:
1. Integrated assessment of water sustainability
The complex relationships among the environmental, social, economic and institutional dimensions of water management require an integrated approach to assess the sustainability at system level, such as a basin or the whole urban water cycle of a municipality. This integrated approach involves a participatory development of the most appropriate water indicators and their integration into a dynamic system model. This allows the quantitative simulation of the water system and the assessment of scenarios and policy options by means of the integrated water indicators. This framework constitutes a powerful tool for water management and improved decissions processes. Such tools also contributes to an enhanced water governance, based on sound scientific knowledge.
2. Adapting to the impacts of climate change on rivers
The hydrological regime of rivers are suffering alterations due to climate change and also human disturbances, particularly water regulations and the increasing water demands. Land use changes, water uses and climate change interact and generate complex hydrological changes in river, which in turn give rise to a range of ecological effects on rivers and socio-economic impacts on populations. The assessment of such changes allow to differentiate among the different drivers, to determine the role of climate change on the observed hydrological alterations and to propose management measures to reinforce the capacities of the different agents (policy-makers, water managers, local populations and other stakholders) to adapt to the hydrological effects of climate change on rivers.
3. Promoting the sustainability of Mediterranean irrigated agriculture
In Mediterranean countries the agricultural demands are responsible for a considerable proportion of total water uses. An integrated aproach to reduce the water footprint in the agricultural sector is therefore a prioritary issue. This requires an integrated framework linking the environmental, social and economic factors and methodologies which help to understand the cost and benefits associated to each policy measure aiming at reducing the water footprint of irrigated Mediterranean agriculture. Sustainability indicators, simulation models, scenario analysis, cost-effectiveness analysis and a wide involvement of stakeholders are esential components of the required integrated approach.
4. Nature-based solutions to manage droughts and floods
In areas with scarce water resources, the ongoing climate change will increase the intensity and frequency of drought periods in many parts of Europe. During droughts, there are clear trade-offs between different water users and different water ecosystem services. To achieve a more resilient situation to cope with droughts and to reduce future impacts and conflicts in areas with scarce water resources, it is necessary to adopt precautionary approaches, adaptive strategies, demand-driven measures and advanced water governance in the design of transition pathways for more sustainable scenarios, which should also be climate-change adapted. Nature Based Solutions can play a key role for such adaptive water management as an integral part of the proposed transition pathways. Nature Based Solutions have also a strong potential to mitigate the risk of floods on a wide range of situations and environments (including natural vegetated zones, agricultural areas and urban environments). The application of Nature Based Solutions under a trans-disciplinary approach and an advanced water governance is critical to improve the system resilience to the increased risks of flood derived from the ongoing climate change.
5. Innovative solutions for integrated rainwater and wastewater management
The environmental sustainability requires to tackle new challenges and to apply innovative integral strategies to the urban water cycle. Among other unresolved issues in many sites, it is necessary to address the improvement of discharged wastewater quality, the implementation of extensive wastewater treatments in rural areas, the recycling of wasterwater and rainwater, the integration of artificial and natural drainage systems in cities and the reduction of impacts in water bodies caused by the sanitary drains under storm events. It is necessary an integrated approach to the rainwater and the sanitary urban drainage systems aiming at the good ecological state of aquatic ecosystems. In addition to to technological innovation, this also requieres an important social innovation, with new management strategies and framewoks taking into account economic, legal and land planning issues, as well as a wide citizen participation, areas in which the FNCA has a wide experience.
6. Assessing the ecosystem services of river restoration
The degraded state of many rivers has increased the awareness about the need for ambitious programs of river restoration. However, it is necessary to apply an strategic approach to take into account the many ecological, economic, social and institutional issues involved, from environmental water flows to ecological engineering or public participation. Moreover, an inter-disciplinary approach is needed to assess the cost and benefits or the different options for river restoration, including the ecosistem services provided by each option and its potential to enhance the adaptation to climate change Specific issues needs a particular atention, such as the social and economic implications of the removal of outdated dams.
7. Improved water governance for a sustainable water management
There is an increasing awareness about the need to move faster towards the implementation of more sustainable water policies and measures. Despite this, the real progress is still far from required. The main barriers for such progress do not derive from technological issues, but from the amount and type of social innovation needed to make a difference. This social innovation is crucial to achieve the strong support required from policy makers, water managers, other stakeholders and citizens to make such effective progress become a reality. This social innovation needs a new water governance based on transparency, cross-colaboration and wide participatory processes. The extensive use of open data systems, the early involvement of stakeholders and the active participation of citizens are essential to solve water conflicts and to achieve ambitious objectives in the sustainable use of water and in the conservation of water-dependent ecosystems. The FNCA has a wide experience in all these issues.
8. Citizen observatories for an advanced implementation of the WFD
Citizen science is receiving an increasing attention due to its clear benefits as bottom-up initiatives in both directions: a) as a source of data and information for scientists and databases, which after proper processing can be added to the existing knowledge and b) as a powerful tool contributing to transfer key research findings to the society, to facilitate their wide dissemination and to increase the social awareness on different important issues. However, there are other concepts of citizen observatories which have also a high potential and that should be taken into account and promoted: citizen observatories to monitor and report the implementation of policies, strategies and public actions. In this type of observatories, trained citizens assume the monitoring and follow-up of public policies, strategies, plans or actions. The Water Policies Observatory (OPPA) of the FNCA is an observatory of these characteristics. It is composed by a wide network of researchers and trained citizens from the different Spanish river basins, which carries out a permanent follow-up of the different documents and stages of the water planning process in each river basin, monitor new developments and proposals regarding water projects and carry out a permanent assessment of water management measures.