WARBO - Water re-born - artificial recharge: innovative technologies for the sustainable management of water resources



If the current climate trend continues, Europe will suffer in the next decades a dramatic reduction in the availability of, and access to, water. Artificial recharge (AR), aimed at counterbalancing natural losses, is an appropriate and effective tool to protect freshwater and groundwater. AR techniques have already been applied to coastal salty aquifers to combat salt intrusion, but AR is not regulated at EU level, and Italian water directives limit its application to salty aquifers, even though AR pilot projects are ready to start once final formal and organisational regulation of the issue is in place. If not regulated, large-scale use of AR would entail risks both for the quality (pollution, accidental mixing of freshwater coming from different water bodies) and the quantity of freshwater (e.g. changes in the dynamic behaviour of the aquifer). To guarantee correct application of recharge techniques, legislation should define: where and how to abstract surface water resources; the chemical and physical characteristics of recharge water with respect to the chemical activity and the hydrogeological structure of the aquifer; recharge methods; environmental impact; and set-up and design of the monitoring network.


The WARBO project will facilitate the regulation of AR and to respond to the need to safeguard, protect and enhance water and land ecosystems. The test phase will concentrate on sites with AR problems that host ecosystems of community interest where urgent measures are needed to combat water scarcity. The project will develop specific experimental protocols that will define the administrative procedures to be followed, and will specify how to manage recharge activities. The protocols will concern direct (hydrogeological, geochemical and isotopic) and indirect (geophysical and remote sensing) methods, and will be finalised and applied to two main macro-areas: a) the Friuli plain; b) the southern plain in the Copparo area (Ferrara).

Expected results:
•Definition of the recharge method, development of a model to evaluate the response of aquifers, and assess the experimental WARBO methods in the test areas;
•Estimates of the time and water volumes needed to stabilise the quality and quantity of an unconfined aquifer, and to recover the initial piezometric level; for salty aquifers, estimates of the time and volumes needed to recreate a stable freshwater aquifer for water supply purposes;
•Modelling of the dynamics of the spring line, whose levels should increase after AR;
•Assessment of the impact of AR on: 1) degradation of organic substances due to the input of high quality water; 2) increase in the piezometric level of the aquifer, which can thus resume its feeding functions instead of its draining-only functions without conveying surface water contaminated by human activities towards the aquifer ; 3) protection of the environmental characteristics of rivers and streams as a result of the recovery of the feeding functions of artificially recharged aquifers;
•Reduction in subsidence caused by excessive withdrawal of underground water;
•Use of aquifers as water storage and transport systems as an alternative to building dams and costly water-supply systems;
•Transfer of knowledge with a view towards the acquisition of data and the management of AR for geothermal purposes; and
•Development of reliable models for managing AR activities.

Project details

Scientific responsability: Carmela Vaccaro

Funding source: LIFE+ 

Start date 1/01/2012 - end date 31/12/2014
Total cost: 1.849.280 €
EU contribution: 860.887 €
EU contribution to UniFe: 119.045 €


  • Istituto Nazionale di Oceanografia e di Geofisica Sperimentale, Coordinator (Italy)
  • Università degli Studi di Udine (Italy)
  • Università degli Studi di Padova (Italy)
  • Agenzia Regionale per la Protezione dell'Ambiente del Friuli Venezia Giulia - ARPA-FVG (Italy)
  • Comune di Copparo (Italy)
  • Botti Elio s.a.s. di Botti Fabio & C. (Italy)
  • TARH – Terra, Ambiente e Recursos Hídricos, Lda (Portugal)
  • EUREKOS srl (Italy)