MEDIUM AND LONG TERM WATER RESOURCES MODELLING AS A TOOL FOR PLANNING AND GLOBAL CHANGE ADAPTATION. APPLICATION TO THE LLOBREGAT BASIN

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BACKGROUND

The increase of green house gases concentration in the atmosphere is causing climate change, through a progressive increase of atmospheric temperature and, consequently, the amount, frequency and intensity of precipitation and other climatic variables may change, too. All these changes of meteorological parameters may modify the water cycle: run-off, infiltration, aquifer recharge, etc. Moreover, land use changes (abandonment of crops, growing urbanization, destruction of forests or deforestation), together with increase of population and quality of life, and the possible consequent increase on water demand, may cause even more impact on water availability and quality than climate change.

Global change is the concept that includes all the future changes due to anthropogenic activities, and it is expected to affect water resources availability and quality, extreme events, surface and ground water, marine and continental water, and, consequently, the accomplishment of different water policies related to river basin management, marine environment, water quantity (floods, droughts, water scarcity), water and health (drinking and bathing water) and water pollution (water treatment). Figure 1 (Harding and Kabat, 2007), shows the different drivers of global change and their impacts on the global water cycle.


Figure 1 Drivers of global change and feedbacks to the global water cycle
(Source: Harding and Kabat (2007), Water and Global Change. Integrated Project Water and Global Change (WATCH programme). EU Sixth Framework Programme)


Specifically, Spain is very vulnerable to climate change as a result of its geographical situation and socio-economic characteristics. The Spanish Climate Change Office, a General Directorate of the Ministry of Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs, is in charge of the coordination, management and follow-up of The Spanish National Climate Change Adaptation Plan. Reports are available on the website: www.marm.es/oecc

WATER CHANGE PROJECT:

  • Develop a decision support tool for water resources planning under global change scenarios, taking into account their evolution and the impacts on different uses.
  • Improve the knowledge of global change impacts on the availability and quality of water resources.
  • Establish measures for facing the negative effects of global change, and actions for protection and adapt infrastructures and development plans; mitigation and adaptation measures.
  • Improve knowledge about economical and environmental costs and benefits of each different measure.
  • Gather and take advantage of existing monitoring networks and available data to run the models and to establish new points in order to have a representative monitoring network.
  • Produce objective data in order to help in social perception of the global change problem.

PROJECT CASE STUDY: THE LLOBREGAT RIVER BASIN (CATALONIA, SPAIN)

The methodology developed will be applied to the Llobregat basin, a highly populated and urbanized catchment in Catalonia, where water resources are used for different purposes, as drinking water production, agricultural irrigation, industry and hydroelectrical energy production.

Catalonia is located in the Northeast of the Iberian Peninsula and covers a surface of 32.000 km2. It is drained by a set of rivers with its source in the Pyrenees mountains or in the coastal ranges. In many cases, rivers go through densely urbanised and industrialised zones. Among them, the Besòs River and the Llobregat River bound to the North and South the conurbation of Barcelona Metropolitan Area (more than 3 millions of inhabitants). From the water resources point of view this area and its surroundings is the most vulnerable one in the Spanish Mediterranean coast, in which integrated water resources management is a key issue. 

The Llobregat river has its source in the Pyrenees mountains and cross quite densely populated areas. This river is known by its importance in the starting industrial development of Catalonia, acting as a socialeconomical axis from the end of the 19th century. The river flows usually through an irregular terrain, but at the last stretch it forms a delta, which is currently one of the most urbanised and industrially developed areas of the region.

MAIN FEATURES - LLOBREGAT RIVER BASIN (CATALONIA, SPAIN)

  • Surface area: 4957 km²
  • River longitude: 157 km, from Castellar de n'Hug (in the Pre-Pyrenees, altitude of 1295 m) to El Prat de Llobregat, at sea level (Mediterranean Sea).
  • Dams: Sant Ponç (24 hm3) and Llosa de Cavall (80 hm3) in the Cardener River and La Baells (115 hm3) in the Llobregat River.
  • Human occupation: Barcelona Metropolitan Area, in the lower end, more than 3 millions of inhabitants.
  • Other main towns: Manresa, Berga, Igualada, Martorell, El Prat de Llobregat.