Drinking water companies worldwide have freshwater supply problems. The main freshwater source for the Dutch water utility company Dunea is the Maas River, together with the Lek. However, due to extreme drought and intrusion of salty water (partly due to rising sea levels), the freshwater provision has become endangered. Groundwater lenses occur where freshwater floats above denser saltwater. Brackish water in these lenses is a promising new resource to supplement coastal freshwater reserves, reducing seawater intrusion and creating a buffer during periods of drought.
The LIFE_FRESHMAN project beneficiaries aim to demonstrate the effectiveness and cost-efficiency of a novel method to enlarge and safeguard freshwater availability, for producing drinking water and safeguarding biodiversity and ecosystems, while creating a buffer for extreme drought conditions. Creating freshwater buffers and reducing dependence on climate-change sensitive freshwater sources, such as surface water, is key to increasing resilience. The objective of the project teams innovative technique, called Freshman, is to enlarge groundwater lenses in coastal zones by combined infiltration of freshwater and extraction of lower-level brackish groundwater. The enlarged lens acts as both a strategic freshwater storage solution and as a barrier against saltwater intrusion. The aim is to treat the extracted brackish water using reverse osmosis, to create a new climate-independent drinking water source. To promote the replication of the projects methodology, results will be disseminated to relevant authorities and professionals across the EU.
The projects outcomes will contribute to the implementation of the EU Floods Directive, Water Framework Directive, Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, and policy specifically aimed at preventing saltwater intrusion and freshwater loss in coastal areas.
The replication site in Belgium will focus on building up the freshwater lens (that can also act against salt water intrusion) during and after the infiltration. Once this technologiy is proven successful, the system might be found suitable to produce drinking water out of brackish water, in a future stage.