Italy: MENAWARA implements innovate system to mitigate degradation of groundwater quality and quantity


In the highly contaminated area of Arborea (region of Sardinia, Italy), the MENAWARA project aims at mitigating the effects of groundwater nitrate concentration with the installation of a Forested Infiltration Area (FIA) system.

Workers took advantage of the good weather conditions to resume operations after an unexpected interruption due to the breakage of key machinery.

The local landowner family expressed satisfaction for the project and anticipates positive feedback from neighbouring farmers and interest to replicate the initiative locally to expand its impact: "we decided to go ahead with the project because Arborea is a very polluted land. MENAWARA is one of the very few initiatives to mitigate the contamination of soil and groundwater due to intensive exploitation of the terrain for maize crops to feed cattle destined for meat and milk production."

Since 2005, Arborea has been recognized as a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone. The intensive dairy cattle system is, on the one hand, the main driver of soil fertility, but on the other hand, it is the main cause of groundwater pollution considering the high concentration of nitrates and the eutrophication caused by phosphorus in the surrounding wetlands and lagoons. Drainage water, which usually flows to wetlands, will be used to recharge the sandy aquifer without compromising the minimum vital flow of the drainage network and wetlands. 

Six trenches have been dug with a special triangular-shaped excavator scoop. Two disc lysimeters for the analysis of the soil solution have been positioned at the bottom of the trenches. Finally, the trenches are filled with a homogenous mixture of gravel, sand and eucalyptus wood chips.

MENAWARA will test the FIA technique as best practice which could be integrated by the Regional Agency of the Hydrographic District into the Sardinia Basin Management Plan as a tool to mitigate the quantitative-qualitative degradation of groundwater not only in the Arborea plain, but also in similar hydrogeological contexts.