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Abstract

Coastal regions of Europe have special water supply problems due to the population pressure, competing demands and the ever-present risk of saline intrusion from modern and old sea water. This is especially the case in southern Europe where touristic demands exacerbate water supplies, often in semi-arid regions. Palaeowaters emplaced at times of lowered sea level offer potential high-quality, high-value reserves in many areas, although a lack of understanding of the nature of the resource, together with exploitation for non-drinking purposes and indiscriminate drilling, may already have damaged the underground reservoirs and the reserves within them. These aquifers may, however, offer sites that are attractive for seasonal water storage.

Palaeowaters generally are of high quality and are demonstrably free of human impacts. Good drilling practice and operation are required to avoid contamination, the mixing of palaeowaters with more saline waters and avoidance of marine intrusion. Two case studies illustrating the management practice in areas containing palaeowaters – in the French Mediterranean coast and the Llobregat Delta area of Catalonia, Spain – are given. These demonstrate, above all, the need for integrated development, observation and planning, which involves all the stakeholders, especially the beneficiaries and end-users. There is a need for improved regulation for the protection, use and management of aquifers containing palaeowaters at both the national and European scale, to consider the intrinsic value of uncontaminated palaeowaters as a unique, non-renewable source of drinking water. The value of such aquifers for subsequent freshwater storage and also for use as a brackish water source for desalination may also be considered.

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