Po Plain, Italy.
One of the most nitrate-rich areas of Italy due to high urbanization and intense agricultural activities, where competition over surface and groundwater use (and associated contamination) often generates conflicts among all concerned stakeholders (farmers, breeders and authorities).
Groundwater in this area has been extensively studied to identify the main causes of nitrate contamination, but still, the problem persists.
So here come the questions: what can scientists do to contribute to the long term protection of Po Plain groundwater? Does the nitrate contamination issue in this region require further understanding? Or this is just a lack of coordinated actions and stakeholder engagement?
With the “Squaring the cycle: the INTEgration of GROundwater processes in Nutrient budgets for a basin oriented remediation strategy (INTEGRON)” three Italian research institutes (University of Pavia, University of Parma and The Water Research Institute, CNR-IRSA) are trying to address this question.
Overall INTEGRON project aims at evaluating the role of groundwater as a temporary or permanent sink or as a source in nutrient mass balances at the catchment scale in two key sub-basins of Po River, the Adda and the Ticino.
An innovative and integrated approach is proposed, considering both surface and groundwater, combining hydrogeology and biogeochemistry and targeting both N and P species.
This is the project I am currently working on, indeed a good opportunity to test the effectiveness of socio-hydrogeology in supporting science-based management practices in different socio-economic environments.