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Page Updated: 25-Sep-2006
SPS Homepage > News 2003 > Article

Water resources and security

Desertification in the Mediterranean region: a security issue
Water monitoring stations inaugurated on Moldova/Romania/Ukraine borders
Collaboration in the Mediterranean Region

Water problems exist worldwide, and they are particularly acute in countries of the Mediterranean Dialogue. Water resources are not only a social and economic issue, but also a security issue, and water can even be compared to oil in its importance to border security. Science has an important role to play in tackling the many different problems associated with reliable provision of clean water, and it is a popular area of study among the scientists of the Mediterranean countries. The subjects of the following Collaborative Linkage Grants recently supported under the Environmental and Earth Sciences area are quite varied, but they all deal with aspects of the water problem. The results of all collaborative grants are published in relevant scientific journals, and presented at specialist conferences, so that the findings are available to all.

  • The objective of this collaborative project between Algeria and France is to improve the available knowledge of the state of pollution in the Algiers district, including the bay and river waters, and to consider appropriate remedial techniques. The study will concentrate on hydrocarbons and phenols, which are an important cause of pollution in the Algiers area, being generated by the industrial and human activity there. The taste and odour of water are affected by very low concentrations of these pollutants. This project is led by Dr. Ahmed Ait Kaci, Université des Sciences et de la Technologie Houari Boumediene, Algeria, and Prof. Marek Rogalski, Université de Metz, France.

  • Scientists from Egypt and Belgium are collaborating on the development of a sophisticated water management tool. Mathematical models are very powerful tools to support the management of the surface waters in a country, which are now frequently used for management of both flooding and water quality problems by national water authorities. Sources of water and of pollution relevant to the area in question have to be considered and integrated into any model. A methodology has been worked out at Louvain University using Belgian data, to which two Ph.D. students from Egypt contributed a large part during their studies in Belgium. Now back in Egypt they are working at two different water research institutes in Cairo. A NATO grant has allowed collaboration to be set up between the different institutions to refine and further develop the methodology, using different data, this time from the River Nile basin. The project is being led by Dr. Alaa El-Sadek of the Water Resources Research Institute, Cairo, Egypt, and Prof. Patrick Willems, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium.

  • The aim of a research project underway between collaborators in Morocco and the United States is to obtain qualitative and quantitative understanding of the role of "humic substances" on the transport of pesticides in the environment. Humic substances refers to a complex of mixes of different organic substances which most likely play an important role in changes of chemical behaviour of toxic heavy metals and pesticides. Efforts will focus mainly on two pesticides which are currently in use in Morocco (imidazolines and sulfonylureas). Representative samples of soil will be taken from different locations in Morocco. The results obtained from this research project will be used to develop strategies for the long-term groundwater protection measures to sustain a high water quality. The research teams are led by Prof. Mohammed El Azzouzi of the University Mohammed V, Rabat, Morocco, and Prof. Shahamat Khan of George Mason University, Virginia, USA.

  • Researchers in Tunisia are involved in a multinational and multidisciplinary project aimed at evaluating a new generation of ultraviolet-lamp technologies for use in different UV water treatment systems, with potential for improving the quality of drinking water and agricultural irrigation systems in rural communities. Because of water scarcity all possible water sources must be mobilised in rural areas, including rainwater cisterns, groundwater wells, and wastewater recuperation. These non-conventional systems, however, pose the risk of disease transmission if they are improperly exploited. Ultraviolet disinfection of water and wastewater is a possible alternative to the current generally-used chlorination, which has disadvantages which include increasing concerns about cancer-causing byproducts. The research teams involved are led by Dr. K. Charrada, Monastir, Tunisia, Prof. V. Tarasenko, Tomsk, Russia, Prof. G. Zissis, Toulouse, France, Prof. F. Dawson, Toronto, Canada and Dr. W. Cairns, London, Ontario, Canada.

  • Israeli scientists are involved in a project on geothermal wastewater. In small amounts boron is essential for plant growth, but becomes toxic when its concentration exceeds a critical value. The Kizildere-Denizli geothermal field in Turkey is being developed for electricity production and large amounts of processed water is disposed of, but the boron level is too high for the water to be used for irrigation of agricultural zones. Turkish researchers have recently performed laboratory and field tests for boron removal using ion exchange technology. This collaborative project aims to provide a viable large-scale solution to the problem of discharge of geothermal wastewater. This project is being led by Prof. N. Kabay from Turkey, Prof. Vladimir Teplayakov from Russia, Prof. M. Ryjak from Poland, Prof. Victor Starov from the UK, and Prof. Raphael Semiat from Israel.