SMART - A new frontier in offshore aquifer research
SMART is a new international and interdisciplinary project that aims to develop a best practice guide examining if and how offshore groundwater aquifers may be used sustainably to relieve water scarcity for coastal communities around the world.
SMART is one of three projects chosen during the first selection phase for Helmholtz European Partnering: New impetus for the Europen research area. The project is jointly lead by scientists from GEOMAR - Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel and the University of Malta. The outcomes of the SMART project will be shared with a wide range of stakeholders via scientific publications, conference communications, website, social media, interviews and press releases, public understanding of science activities, workshops and a best-practice guide.
Groundwater resources in coastal regions are facing enormous stress caused by population growth, increased pollution and climate change, with the recent crisis in Cape Town - a city with 4.5 million inhabitants that just escaped a total shutdown of fresh water supply - being just the latest prominent example.
Offshore aquifers (OAs) - freshwater bodies located beneath the seafloor - have been proposed as an alternative source of freshwater. However, there are a number of first-order questions that need to be addressed before OAs can be exploited sustainably. These include a lack of understanding of the location, nature, geometry and architecture of OAs, their connectivity with onshore aquifers, and their evolution in response to potential exploitation and predicted climate change.
Photo: Bradley Weymer/GEOMAR
The SMART project will lead to a step increase in our understanding of how OAs function, and will provide the technology and methodology to assess if there are OAs in any given offshore area and to determine if and how these can be used sustainably. SMART will entail a unique integration of innovative concepts and techniques from terrestrial and marine geology, geochemistry, geophysics, and hydrogeology to reach the project objectives.
Photos: Bradley Weymer/GEOMAR
The cooperation aims to establish a highly visible international research centre on offshore groundwater research that will provide expertise on this subject for the Mediterranean region. Together we will conduct a case study offshore Malta and develop suitable methods for offshore groundwater detection and assessment.
The project will bring together five scientists from GEOMAR and two scientists from the University of Malta (UoM), in addition to four newly appointed junior researchers. This team will conduct the project and build up an international centre for offshore groundwater research. This will increase GEOMAR’s international visibility and puts groundwater research onto GEOMAR’s POFIV agenda as one of the grand challenges that is not being addressed by its present POF program. The cooperation and capacity building activities planned by GEOMAR and UoM include advanced training schools, exchange programs, mutual participation in advisory bodies, joint sessions at international conferences, and joint scientific publications.