The Catalan Institute for Water Research (ICRA)
ICRA – The Catalan Institute for Water Research (Catalan: Institut Català de Recerca de l’Aigua, Spanish: Instituto Catalán de Investigación del Agua).
The Catalan Institute for Water Research (ICRA) is a research center devoted to the study of water-related issues from scientific and technological perspectives. The ICRA was established in October 2006 by the Catalan Autonomous Government within the framework of the Research Centers Network Program (CERCA). The ICRA is a private foundation whose trustees are the Catalan regional government’s Department of Economy and Knowledge (DECO), the University of Girona (UdG), and the Catalan Water Agency (ACA). The H2O building, the Institute’s official headquarters, has housed the institute since 7 October 2009, during which time the ICRA has progressively defined its main lines of research and its internal structure.
RESEARCH IN WATER ISSUES REQUIRES INTEGRATIVE SOLUTIONS Compared to other regions of the world, the Mediterranean basin is one of the most vulnerable to climate changes and a prominent “hot spot” for potential changes in water availability. The Mediterranean climate is subject to complex planetary scale processes, but also to local processes induced by the physiography of the region and by the influence of the Mediterranean Sea. Arid and semi-arid regions are particularly waterthirsty, and excessive pressure on water resources is the rule of thumb. The conjoint result of climate and human-related (including abstraction) changes on water availability is visible in several long-term hydrological patterns. The effects of water scarcity on drainage networks extend from associated hydrological irregularities to variations in geomorphological dynamics (higher channel incision, habitat simplification). Water chemical quality is affected, with higher nutrient and pollutant concentrations occurring under lower water flows. Biological communities respond to harsher environmental conditions with lower diversity, the arrival of invasive species, and a reduced efficiency of biological processes (nutrient uptake, primary production, decomposition, etc.). The increased pressure on water resources will undoubtedly cause additional effects on aquatic ecosystems, with scarcity-induced stress inducing other physical or chemical types of damage. Furthermore, water scarcity and its derived effects negatively impact ecosystems and thus the human beings that depend on them. Potential alternatives to rising demands and harmful effects are neither single nor readily implemented. Growing population demands against a background of global climate change suggests a relevant conflict with the needs of ecosystems, as well as effects on water quantity and quality. Addressing the demands of both human and natural systems under conditions of shrinking water resources requires a multidisciplinary approach that considers the complete water cycle. This can only be achieved by integrating scientific, technological, and management solutions that address issues related to the ecological quality of rivers and seas, the development of new wastewater and drinking water treatment technologies, and the study of resource availability strategies that take into account sustainability, social perceptions, and the related (financial and social) costs.
THE ROLE OF THE ICRA IN THE MEDITERRANEAN
Faced with these needs and the awareness of the importance of water as a basic resource, the main aim in the creation of the ICRA was to implement a holistic, multidisciplinary approach to water, one that included all issues related to freshwaters and human-used waters. This has been accomplished through a coordinated, cooperative organizational structure that addresses a broad spectrum of water-related sciences and technologies. This multidisciplinary approach is one of the Institute’s distinguishing features. In particular, the ICRA seeks to provide scientific and technological perspectives to a number of issues derived from water needs, scarcity, and ecosystem conservation.
The aims of the ICRA are:
-To develop research, knowledge transfer, and innovation projects related to all aspects of the complete cycle of water and its management.
-To attract qualified researchers to participate in the ICRA’s projects, and to train specialized researchers and technicians in the scientific and technological fields related to water.
-To act as a center of knowledge exchange through specialized courses, workshops, and general meetings
-To become an umbrella institution for water research developed in Catalonia, as well as a qualified research center able to achieve relevance in the Mediterranean and in an international context
The ICRA’s lines of research are organized in three main areas, referred to as (A). Water resources and ecosystems, (B). Water quality, and (C). Water technologies and evaluation (Table 1).
A. Water resources and ecosystems
Line 1. Analysis and modeling of hydrological and physical processes in inland waterbodies, both in superficial waters and groundwater
Line 2. Biogeochemistry, biodiversity, structure and functioning of lacustrine ecosystems, including reservoirs
Line 3. Biogeochemistry, biodiversity, structure and functioning of river ecosystems; valuation of river ecosystems and compartments in a watershed perspective
Line 4. Management and restoration of ecosystems; watershed modeling and Planning
B. Water quality
Line 1. Dynamics of organic pollutants in superficial and ground waters, sediments, and biota
Line 2. Pollutants in drinking, treated, and reused waters
Line 3. Microbiological diversity and quality of natural and reused waters
Line 4. Ecotoxicological responses of the biota to priority and emergent pollutants
C. Water technologies and evaluation
Line 1. Efficient conditioning and distribution of ground or surface drinking water
Line 2. Wastewater treatment and reuse
Line 3. Modeling and control of water-based systems
Line 4. Unitary operational systems
Institut Català de Recerca de l'Aigua (ICRA) Catalan Institute for Water Research
Carrer Emili Grahit, 101 Edifici H2O Parc Científic i Tecnològic de la Universitat de Girona E- 17003 Girona (Spain)
Tel: (+34) 972 18 33 80
Fax: (+34) 972 18 32 48