Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development Programme
(EVK1-CT-2000-00079 WATERUSE, EU)

Evaluation of alternative techniques for determination of water budget components
 in water-limited, heterogeneous land-use systems

STARTING DATE: 1 Jan 2001                                                                                                                                     ENDING DATE: 30 June 2004


This project aims to provide tools for the evaluation of water fluxes and its
governing processes in the drier regions of Europe, in order to develop guidelines for the sustainable use of water resources.
The components of the water budget will be studied at locations in Italy and Portugal, representative for large regions of southern Europe characterised by a shortage of water and seasonal fluctuations in both supply and demand. We intend to quantify the main water fluxes for representative land-use patterns. A consequent step-by-step approach from a single tree to a stand and landscape should allow us to identify critical hydrological variables.


We have to face a worldwide increasing pressure on the natural resources. The limited availability of water in terms of quantity and quality leads to strong competition between different users with severe expression in water scarce regions. Therefore there is a need to solve the task of water distribution taking into account the specific demand on water of each land-use pattern (e.g. irrigated orchards, recreation resorts, natural ecosystems) and its related impacts on the economic, environmental and social conditions. A sustainable development can only be achieved if the local decision (distribution scheme) is embedded in a water management strategy for the whole water catchment.

An integrated watershed management can only be successful if it is based on the understanding of the physical and physiological principles of water and solute movement. Soil water movement and evapotranspiration represent crucial components of the hydrological cycle because they are directly linked to plant growth (production) and function as a trigger with respect to surface runoff and recharge of ground- and surface water which may serve as drinking-water reservoirs.

For the large water deficient regions of European countries with Mediterranean climate there exists a lack of knowledge on evapotranspiration and survival strategies under water stress of the dominant stands. These savana-like landscapes e.g. with oak trees or olive trees withstand the extremes of wet and dry seasons during the year. The lack of knowledge arises because of the lack of appropriate tools, both sensors and models, to study those systems. So, we have to develop tools that will enable us to describe and quantify the water fluxes within those landscapes.

Irrigation represents the main consumer of water (with increasing demands) in the areas under investigation. Natural and seminatural ecosystems like the montado may react sensitive to changes in the local water cycle. Criteria will be derived to determine priorities for the sustainable use of water resources in relation to land-use pattern in order to minimise conflicts. A close co-operation between scientist, private enterprises, farmers and institutions all involved in water resources management will ensure that the project will focus on contributing to solutions of the above mentioned actual problems.