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Drought-related vulnerability and risk assessment of groundwater resources in Belgium (GroWaDRISK)

Research project SD/RI/05A (Research action SD)

Persons :

  • Dr.  BATELAAN Okke - Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)
    Coordinator of the project
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/6/2012-31/5/2016
  • Prof. dr.  DE BECKER Piet - Instituut voor Natuur- en Bosonderzoek (INATBOS)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/6/2012-31/5/2016
  • Prof. dr.  TSAKIRIS George - National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) (NTUA)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/6/2012-31/5/2016
  • Prof. dr.  TYCHON Bernard - Université de Liège (ULG)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/6/2012-31/5/2016
  • Dr.  ENGELEN Guy - Vlaamse Instelling voor Technologisch Onderzoek (VITO)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/6/2012-31/5/2016
  • Prof. dr.  CANTERS Frank - Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/6/2012-31/5/2016
  • Dr.  VERBEIREN Boud - Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)
    Not-financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/6/2012-31/5/2016

Description :


Due to the assumed insignificance of drought hazards under temperate conditions this field remains poorly studied. In the first place drought is a phenomenon caused by deficient precipitation for a large area and significant duration. In case the temporary water deficiency affects groundwater bodies, the term groundwater drought is used. Groundwater droughts develop slowly but can have considerable socio-economic and environmental consequences. Next to natural meteorological variations also human induced factors play a role. There is a need for an improved understanding of groundwater drought and the human-induced factors influencing the groundwater balance. This should form the basis for an integrated approach which allows tackling negative effects and safeguarding sustainability of groundwater resources.

Project description

Problem of depletion and deterioration of groundwater in the Belgian, temperate context and the related socio-economic and environmental impacts (see "Documentation").

 Objectives

This study aims at overcoming the lack of research with respect to (groundwater) drought hazards under temperate conditions by:

• Increasing policy-relevant understanding of influencing factors (climate-land use/land cover-demand) determining groundwater drought in a temperate context.

• Obtaining reliable spatially distributed timeseries for groundwater recharge and water table levels, enabling to describe where (space) and when (time) groundwater drought occurred/occurs.

• Assessing the socio-economic and environmental impacts of groundwater drought at a large catchment scale for the present and future situation (coming 30 years).

• Mapping the individual and combined vulnerability of groundwater resources.

• Assessing the risk as a monetary loss in order to enable objective evaluation and reduce the groundwater drought risk towards the future..

• Developing a methodology and supporting quantitative tools aimed at planning and decision support with respect to groundwater management, applicable at the level of river basins in Belgium and beyond.

• Informing the public, consisting of domain specialists and lay persons, about the results of the analysis carried out in the case region, by means of an Internet-based indicator atlas.

 Methodology

A combined water balance and groundwater modelling strategy is applied to obtain a reliable spatially distributed recharge and water table timeseries. The study area is the Dijle and Demer catchment in central Belgium, which corresponds more or less with the underlying vulnerable Brulandtkrijt groundwater system.

The first step is a groundwater drought hazard assessment to increase knowledge and understanding of groundwater drought in a Belgian context. Starting point is a thorough analysis of the main influencing factors. Regarding the climate factor, a hydro-meteorological time-series analysis combined with a drought index approach enables the identification and characterization of historical and recent drought hazards. Land-use/land-cover characterization focuses on the estimation and mapping of agricultural land use change and change of impervious fraction cover, which are very sensitive and determining parameters for recharge estimation.

Once the spatially distributed recharge and water table timeseries is obtained the baseline scenario, which represents a sustainable groundwater system, is defined. Based on groundwater simulations the baseline (reference) and current status of agriculture (crop yield), natural ecosystems and water supply are determined. A next step is to study the impact of changing influencing factors on the total system. Readily available socio-economic and climate scenarios (SRES from IPCC) for the future are combined with specific demand scenarios and used in a land-use change model. Using the water balance and groundwater model the individual and overall impact can be assessed, not only on groundwater resources, but also on future agricultural production and natural ecosystem health. This impact analysis forms the basis for vulnerability mapping for each of the separate aspects.

Finally the baseline scenario (sustainable system) and the defined threshold functions (“rules”) are used in combination with the scenario simulations to determine the separate risk for relevant socio-economic activities (agriculture, industry, etc.).

 Interaction between the different partners

This research project has a strong focus on interdisciplinarity. An important part of the proposed network's strength lies in the complementary expertise of each of its members in different domains, including: hydrological modeling (VUB-H), agro-meteorology and crop yield modeling (Ulg), LULC mapping and characterization (VUB-G), land-use dynamics modeling (VITO), modeling vegetation dynamics (INBO) and drought characterisation and drought risk assessment (NTUA).

 Expected results and/or Products

The outcomes of the project (see objectives) will serve concerned authorities and those responsible for operational management in setting priorities for an integrated sustainable management and a reduced risk for groundwater resources in Belgium. Moreover such an approach is essential in meeting the requirements of the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) towards EU member states to describe and monitor their groundwater resources.


 Activities

The scientific activities within the frame of the GroWaDRISK project can be divided into seven main research topics:

a. Rainfall analysis and drought hazards assessment (Partner 2 & Partner 6)
b. Impervious surface mapping (Partner 3)
c. Land-use change scenario modelling (Partner 4)

d. Water budget and groundwater table simulation (Partner 1)

e. Impact assessment on agriculture (Partner 2)
f. Impact assessment on natural ecosystems (Partner 5)

g. Drought risk assessment (Partner 6)

A strong interaction between the different teams is essential for the development of an integrated methodology, which will facilitate sustainable management of groundwater resources with direct use for decision makers and end-users.

 Contact Information

Partner 1 (coordination) – Vrije Universiteit Brussel / Dept. Of Hydrology and Hydraulic Engineering
Name(s): Okke Batelaan, Boud Verbeiren & Marijke Huysmans
Contact: Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussels, Belgium, Tel. +32 2 629 30 39 or +32 2 629 36 35, Fax. +32 2 629 30 22, Email. or

Partner 2 - Université de Liège / Dept. Of Environmental Sciences and Management
Name(s): Bernard Tychon, Ingrid Jacquemin
Contact: Place du 20 août 7, Bât A1, 4000 Liège, Belgium, Tel. +32 63 23 08 29, Fax. +32 63 23 08 97, email:

Partner 3 – Vrije Universiteit Brussel / Cartography and GIS Research Group, Dept. Of Geography
Name(s): Frank Canters, Sven Vanderhaegen
Contact: Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussels, Belgium, Tel. +32 2 629 33 81, Fax. +32 2 629 33 78, Email.

Partner 4 – Vlaamse Instelling voor Technologisch Onderzoek (VITO), Environmental Modelling Unit
Name(s): Guy Engelen, Lien Poelmans
Contact: Boeretang 200, 2400 Mol, Belgium, Tel. +32 14 33 67 37, Fax. +32 14 33 67 99, Email.

Partner 5 – Eigen Vermogen Instituut voor natuur- en bosonderzoek (INBO)
Name(s): Piet De Becker
Contact: Kliniekstraat 15, 1070 Brussel, Belgium, Tel. +32 2 525 02 25, Fax. +32 2 528 88 83, Email.

Partner 6 – Centre for the Assessment of Natural Hazards and Proactive Planning / National Technical University of Athens
Name(s): George Tsakiris, Harris Vangelis
Contact: Heroon Polytechniou 9, 15780, Zografou, Greece, Tel. +30 210 7722631 or +30 210 7722700, Fax. +30 210 7722632, Email.

Follow-up Committee

Henny Van Lanen
European Drought Centre
Wageningen University Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management Group

Roger White
Memorial University of Newfoundland
Department of Geography
Landgebruik modellering

Giampiero Genovese
European Commission - DG Agriculture and Rural Development
Unit L2 Econ. Analysis of EU Agriculture
Modellering van landbouwgewassen en impact analyse van klimaat

Alain Dassargues
Université de Liège (Ulg), Département ArGEnCo
Hydrogeologie en grondwater modellering

Roland Masset
Johan Derouane Service Public de Wallonie (SPW), Dir. Générale Opérationelle, Agriculture Resources Naturelles et Environnement (DGARNE), Dir. Des eaux souterraines
Grondwater beheer Wallonie

Didier D’hont
Andy Louwyck Vlaamse Milieu Maatschappij (VMM), Afdeling Operationeel Waterbeheer, Dienst grondwaterbeheer
Grondwater beheer Flanderrs

Mohssine El Kahloun
Belgian Science Policy (BELSPO)
Science for Sutainable Development (SSD)

Documentation :

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