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Innovative solutions for water management and ecosystem services through the DESSIN Project

June 2, 2017


Environmental decision-makers across Europe are continually faced with difficult decisions about how to target effective management and policy measures that conserve and restore the continent’s freshwater ecosystems. One means of valuing the effects of different measures is through the ecosystem service framework, through which attempts are made to quantify the multiple benefits humans obtain from ecosystems.

DESSIN, a European water research project, has recently shared details of its ‘Ecosystem Services Evaluation Framework‘, which is designed to help decision makers evaluate the effectiveness of new and innovative water management measures in ensuring water quality and quantity in urban areas.

The framework helps users evaluate the effects that technical and/or management measures have on freshwater ecosystems and their services. It is targeted at decision-makers and technology developers as a practical way to integrate the ecosystem services concept into their day-to-day decision-making process. It is hoped that the DESSIN framework will help facilitate the integration of the ecosystem services concept into EU Water Framework Directive implementation.

A key features of the framework is how it links innovative management solutions to the specific ecosystem services they may influence. The framework acts by guiding the user to define particular capabilities of the management solution – such as a reduction in dissolved pollutants in a water body – and then relates these to changes in specific ecosystem services.

The framework has been tested through application at three case study sites. On the River Emscher in Germany, the effects of river restoration on biodiversity habitat, nutrient purification and flood protection were documented. In Aarhus, Denmark ‘real-time control‘ of combined sewer overflows were used to make urban drainage systems more effective and responsive in mitigating pollution during periods of high runoff. At Llobregat in Spain, infiltration ponds were used to filter recharge water back into groundwater stores.

The feedback resulting from these initial applications has been used to fine-tune the framework’s individual elements, and to integrate it with existing decision support software (MIKE WORKBENCH).

Sebastian Birk of the MARS project says, “The Water Framework Directive calls for the good ecological status of all waters in Europe – but in many cases this requires costly mitigation measures. These measure often provide ‘added value’ by enhancing flood prevention, water self-purification or human recreation. Water managers are thus increasingly interested in tools to evaluate freshwater-related ecosystem services. Both the projects DESSIN and MARS have made significant contributions in this regard.”

The DESSIN project assesses the effectiveness of ‘innovative solutions’ for water scarcity and water quality through five case studies: in Germany (restoration of the heavily modified Emscher River); Norway (pollution of Hoffselva River near Oslo); the Netherlands (underground fresh water storage in brackish aquifers between Amsterdam and Rotterdam to store water for the horticultural sector); Greece (sewer mining for water reuse in Athens); and Spain (underground storage of water in the Llobregat River Delta near Barcelona). DESSIN is coordinated by the German IWW Water Centre and has 20 research partners.

Find out more at the DESSIN project website
Download the DESSIN Ecosystem Service Framework

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