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# TOWARDS IMPROVING WATER MANAGEMENT IN ROMANIA; STAKEHOLDER PERCEPTIONS OF SATELLITE-BASED CYANOBACTERIA BLOOM ASSESSMENTS

Authors:
• John Wesley Theological College
• research (state-owned) & educational (private) institutions

## Abstract

Over the past years, there has been significant progress in the field of water quality monitoring that has also introduced new challenges. First and foremost, there is an ongoing development in satellite-based retrieval techniques, accompanied by technological development of the equipment deployed in situ to monitor chlorophyll and cyanobacteria. To design and adopt potential adaptation and mitigation strategies for the future, analyses of the current monitoring system that is implemented in Romania are necessary in order to look into the current status of the stakeholders perception of algal blooms and to promote integration of satellite-based monitoring of cyanobacteria into the existing water monitoring programme.
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* For correspondence.
Journal of Environmental Protection and Ecology 20, No 3, 1094–1101 (2019)
Water pollution
TOWARDS IMPROVING WATER MANAGEMENT
IN ROMANIA; STAKEHOLDER PERCEPTIONS OF
SATELLITE-BASED CYANOBACTERIA BLOOM
ASSESSMENTS
L. TOROKa*, Z. TOROKa, P. PHILIPSONb, E. POLITIc
aDanube Delta National Institute for Research of Development, 165 Babadag
Street, Tulcea, Romania
bBrockmann Geomatics Sweden AB, 39 Torshamnsgatan Street, 16 440 Kista,
Sweden
cOdermatt und Brockmann GmbH, 57 Stampfenbachstrasse, 8006 Zürich,
Switzerland
E-mail: torokliliana@yahoo.com
Abstract. Over the past years, there has been signicant progress in the eld of water quality moni-
toring that has also introduced new challenges. First and foremost, there is an ongoing development
in satellite-based retrieval techniques, accompanied by technological development of the equipment
deployed in situ to monitor chlorophyll and cyanobacteria. To design and adopt potential adaptation
and mitigation strategies for the future, analyses of the current monitoring system that is implemented
in Romania are necessary in order to look into the current status of the stakeholders perception of
algal blooms and to promote integration of satellite-based monitoring of cyanobacteria into the
existing water monitoring programme.
Keywords: CyanoAlert, satellite-based water quality assessment, stakeholders.
AIMS AND BACKGROUND
The present work aims to assess the overall cost of the in situ water quality moni-
toring programmes in Romania with particular focus on algal and cyanobacteria
blooms, and evaluate if and how the local/national authorities involved in water
quality monitoring are open to potential integration of satellite-based assessments
into their programmes.
A number of challenges were considered, as follows:
– the level of understanding of such a service,
– the level of satisfaction and willingness to change existing work protocols,
– the nancial capacity of the authorities responsible for water quality moni-
toring activities to pay for the costs of such an implementation.
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In Europe, the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and associated River
basin management plans have led to a signicant shift in Member States water
management and increased the availability of information to the public1. Even if
the sciences journalism is in crisis due to shrinking audiences, online platforms
and social media are now used as new communication channels between citizens
and scientic institutions and are the main way information is disseminated all
over the world2.
In Romania, signicant progress has been substantiated in the eld of water
monitoring in recent years. WFD has been transposed into national law. Planning,
development and management tools for water resources at the river basins district
levels have been created and correlations were made up between the River basin
planning plan (PABH) as a quantitative management component, the River basin
management plan (PMBH) as a qualitative management component and the Flood
risk management plans (PMRI). In addition, steps have been made to implement
management plans of the international transboundary sub-basins, such as the Prut
and Danube Delta, together with the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.
In Romania, there are 11 river basins and 40 Water Management sub-systems
which are facing the same challenges as elsewhere in the world: water consump-
tion and degrading quality. The hydrographic network in Romania has a length of
78 905 km and the water from the tributary rivers, collected by the Danube River
Basin, originates from 19 continental European countries3,4. To promote efcient
administration, operation and maintenance of the National Water Quality Surveil-
lance System and of the National Water Management System for the sustainable
management of water resources in Romania the effort has been centralised and
nanced from its own revenues.
Satellite remote sensing (or Earth Observation (EO)) is an important source
of information for quantifying and mapping dynamic terrestrial and aquatic eco-
systems. The synoptic, wide-area coverage and frequent observations provided by
satellite EO are an important source of standardised information that is not prey
to variability in national and regional in situ data collection methodologies and
standards5. This is particularly pertinent in very large, transboundary river basins,
such as the Danube River Basin. Following decades of technological advance-
ments, satellite EO has become an important geospatial technology for deriving
information about river basins6 and now constitutes an important source of data
and information on freshwater ecosystem status and behaviour.
Following decades of fundamental research and the launch of several new
satellite programmes, the future of satellite EO for freshwater ecosystem and river
basin studies looks very promising, particularly with respect to data availability,
variability, accuracy and the new generation Copernicus Sentinel satellites. The
Sentinels build on the success and capabilities of other currently operational (e.g.
Landsat series) and non-operational (e.g. Envisat MERIS and AATSR) instruments
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and combine short revisit times, ne spatial resolutions and multiple spectral
channels with a free data access policy. Innovative products are now possible by
combining the improved capabilities of individual or multiple sensors, and the
service developed in the H2020 CyanoAlert project (http://www.cyanoalert.com/)
is one recent example of how satellite EO can serve the global water research
community with reliable estimates of water quality parameters and near-real-time
alerts on potentially harmful cyanobacteria blooms in freshwater bodies.
In Romania, either directly or in combination with other data, satellite EO
has been successfully used within the Danube River Basin to map variations in
biomass7, carbon stocks in riparian forests8, habitat change9, historical land cover
change10, evapotranspiration11 and soil moisture12 , to name but a few examples.
Satellite EO-based water quality assessments have been made in the coastal areas,
tourist beaches, or the maritime environment13 and various EO-related projects have
been implemented by the Romanian Space Agency and other national institutes.
EXPERIMENTAL
The analysis presented in this paper aims to investigate the cost of currently im-
plemented eld-based water monitoring in Romania as well as the value added
from integrating satellite EO-based monitoring of cyanobacteria into aquatic
monitoring programmes.
Standard descriptive statistics were used to evaluate needs for satellite-based
assessment. The following EO parameters were considered relevant to increase the
accuracy and/or add value to eld assessments and current monitoring programmes:
(i) concentration of chlorophyll-a, (ii) cyanobacteria, (iii) aquatic vegetation, (iv)
suspended matter, (v) coloured dissolved organic matter, (vi) turbidity and Secchi
depth, and (vii) water surface temperature.
DATA AND METHODS
Data collection was carried out based on a set of 20 questions pertaining to the
existing water quality monitoring system in Romania and the means by which it
can be complemented by remote sensing. The questionnaire was built to draw at-
tention to what a ‘satellite-based assessment’ programme in terms of water quality
assessment can offer. The survey was disseminated via online and e-mail interviews
to target audiences consisting of potential end-users of the satellite product/service,
and the results were summarised and are presented herein.
Taking place during the rst three months of 2019, the survey was designed
to ‘generate meaningful information’ about satellite assessment and in particular
what type of products and services, offered by the H2020 CyanoAlert project,
that would be of interest to the end users. The questionnaire allows choosing
between different CyanoAlert services in order to keep the stakeholder interested
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in improving their protocol for water quality monitoring. Also, the questionnaire
investigated the involvement of the stakeholder in monitoring of water quality
and their knowledge on satellite-based monitoring of cyanobacteria. The main
dissemination channels used for the survey were (a) the web and (b) e-mail inter-
views of potential end-users of CyanoAlert products (chl-α concentration alerts,
cyanobacteria presence alerts, oating vegetation alerts).
The following categories of stakeholders were engaged with the survey: (i)
regional and national headquarters of water management authorities; (ii) the Danube
Delta Biosphere Reserve Administration, which is included in the present study
into the regional authority group (RA); (iii) research institutions and universities
(RI&U), and (iv) NGOs and private companies (others).
The results presented below are based on analysis of the proportion (%) of the
responses from the total number of surveys. Refusals to answer were assigned a
‘no-response’ tag and were included into the ‘lack of information’ category. The
responses to the survey were assigned the values ‘1’ (agree or positive) and ‘0’ (disa-
gree or negative). In the questionnaire the option ‘I do not know’/‘no answer’/‘no
info’ (DK) response was also included pertaining to the interviewee knowledge
around the (i) costs of water/algal biomass (phytoplankton) monitoring programme;
(ii) satellite assessment of algal blooms or on benets of using satellite services;
(iii) necessity or usefulness to include such an assessment in the current monitoring
protocol; (iv) opinion on increasing accuracy, value or complementarity of such
system beside of eld data measurements, and (v) budget currently allocated for
water quality monitoring (in specic chl-α and cyanobacteria).
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Based on the responses from over 60 stakeholders involved in cyanobacteria
assessment and monitoring programmes, through evaluation of the stakeholder/
end-user needs and the associated monitoring costs for water quality analysis, we
have managed to map the ‘satellite-based assessment’ needs. This will allow the
CyanoAlert project to develop a marketable and sustainable service for this type
of cyanobacteria monitoring.
In Romania, people answers in surveys differ signicantly depending on their
knowledge, and needs and at an individual level, their role in the agency, company
or research institution are very important and need to be considered. Thereby, it is
necessary to be able to distinguish interviewees as having executive or manage-
ment roles when a survey is taken. On the other hand, the same stakeholder can
assume different roles or attitudes at the same time, e.g. the national water authority
may react differently as the decision maker in investment strategy or as part of
the specic activity, and in this case as an ‘end-user’ of the satellite services and
products for monitoring of the water quality.
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The increasing trend in using tools like this survey in order to check the opin-
ion of the authorities on the different types of scientic information or products
that are available has changed the relationship between scientist and stakeholders
being more constructive and open to a future dialogue. The one-way model of com-
munication via internet (e-mail) worked perfectly and the reaction time was very
short (i.e. no more than a week) in the case of research institutions and universities
contacted for this study. For regional or national water management authorities
the direct and immediate responses were less frequent and two-way interactions
were used in the latter cases instead and proved successful in receiving answers
and additional comments and feedback on the questionnaire and overall project.
49.2% of the total participants have responded to the survey. Only 27.5% of
the authorities but 93.75% of the research institutions and universities that were
contacted responded to the survey.
In Romania, apart from national water management authorities there are
other institutions (especially research institutions) that are also involved into wa-
ter quality monitoring. The latter have the capacity to inuence the future water
management authority policy due to their role in identifying trends at European
level in the eld of water quality monitoring or environmental policies. In these
cases, answers to the surveys differ from those given by the people employed in
the water management agency because their responses are not inuenced by the
existence of a centralised administrative structure that ensures their nancing of
the activities. In a research institution, researchers acting as leaders of projects
take part in management decisions, either directly through the budget of the project
itself, or indirectly via expressions of their opinion in the Scientic Councils that
propose the institution development strategy.
Applying criteria that reect widely shared conceptions of the importance of
chlorophyll in water quality monitoring, we noted that 84.6% of the respondents
consider it necessary or useful to include satellite-based assessments in current
monitoring protocols.
This survey picked out as a key issue the wide range in different levels of
understanding around what the CyanoAlert service aims to offer. Figure 1 presents
the different stakeholders needs that satellite EO can play a key role in addressing
in order to support and complement current water quality monitoring programmes
in Romania.
The results show high interest in satellite services regarding cyanobacteria
presence alerts (83.9% of the respondents), chl-a concentration estimates and
forecasts (74.2% of the respondents), coloured dissolved organic matter (71% of
the respondents), oating vegetation alert (67.7% of the respondents), suspended
matter (64.5% of the respondents), turbidity (61.3% of the respondents), water
surface temperature (58.1% of the respondents) and Secchi depth (51.6% of the
respondents). This interest is highly comparable within academic stakeholders, i.e.
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research institutions and universities. The most popular delivery channel prefer-
ences are data les for own interpretation and combination with other information
or data processing (77.4% of the respondents), on-line databases (64.5% of the
respondents), interpreted results such as reporting and analytics (status, trends
and changes) (61.3% of the respondents) web portal and information provided via
public web pages (51.6 % of the respondents).
Fig. 1. CyanoAlert services offered and respective needs by various stakeholders in Romania
On the other hand, paying attention to the subject of nancial strength in order
to elucidate the ‘customer behaviour’ we nd that even if the respondent has the
power to decide how the investments are done in their institute, there was a limited
number of answers (17.6%) in the case of national and regional water management
administration, for the question: ’Would you include in the institution budget the
purchase of such a system?’.
It was also found that the responses on the questions regarding the current
cost of the water quality monitoring programme at national and regional level
(such as in the case of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve), in Romania can be
epitomised by the following aspects: the national water management authority did
not provide a response; the regional authority for the management of the natural
heritage of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve has no budget allocated for water
quality monitoring even if they are involved in monitoring activities; the costs for
activities involving water quality monitoring in research institutes vary greatly
even if the monitored areas overlap.
Successful automation and operationalisation of tools used for cyanobacteria
presence alerts require thorough testing and validation at local scales, in order to
help authorities identify all potentially harmful occurrences and take action to
minimise environmental and human impacts. However, the availability of such a
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satellite EO-service as the CyanoAlert is not meant to replace traditional monitor-
ing programmes as satellite EO has its own limitations (not discussed here for the
sake of brevity). What we propose is that satellite estimates and in situ monitoring
programmes co-exist as a complementary instrument for a better and more accurate
mechanism for environmental assessment.
CONCLUSIONS
The assessment carried out directly from the analysis of questionnaires shows that
the communication process is highly inuenced by the institutional structure and
social groups which the respondent belongs to. The relationship between monitoring
needs and the desire to pay to full some or all of those is imbalanced, probably
due to the fact that the cost of the current monitoring programmes are considered
already acceptable.
Using the survey to assess stakeholders attitude with respect to satellite-based
assessment of water quality, the following has become clear:
– there is a lack of knowledge regarding the benets of the satellite-based as-
sessment of cyanobacteria blooms reected in responses such as: ‘What we have
already is OK, no change is needed’ in the case of the water management authority
representatives interviewed here;
– there is positive attitude with regards to purchasing such type of service or
products in the case of the research institutions interviewed here;
– a relatively lower level of engagement by water management authorities
that were contacted with this survey was observed compared to other stakehold-
ers, which signies that a different means of communication is perhaps needed
to reach this target audience a high degree of consensus exists regarding needing
more information on the potential benets of satellite EO and the use of an open-
end channel of communication and negotiation.
Even if only 27.5% of water management authorities have responded to the
survey, the present evaluation is still useful and necessary. In order to improve the
lower engagement at the time being would be necessary to increase the informa-
tion and promotional events (e.g. face to face meetings; workshops and trainings).
Acknowledgements. The survey and analysis presented here were made under the umbrella of the
CyanoAlert project, which has received funding from the European Union Horizon 2020 research
and innovation programme under grant agreement No 730141. The authors would like to thank the
participants of the survey for the information they provided.
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European Waters. Assessment of Status and Pressures. European Environment Agency, 2018. 85 p.
MÁRKUS: Forest Habitat Change Dynamics in a Riparian Woodland
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