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Selection of managed aquifer recharge practices in Latin America

Authors:

Abstract

This report intends to demonstrate the potential of managed aquifer recharge through the identification and dissemination of several success stories throughout the LAC region, showing the great diversity of applications, water sources and MAR techniques involved.
Innovative Groundwater Solutions
Selection of managed aquifer recharge
practices in Latin America
COLLECTION
2
Case studies
Selection of managed aquifer recharge practices
in Latin America
Selection prepared by:
Research Group INOWAS, Department of Hydrosciences,
Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Technische Universität
Dresden (TUD), Germany
Centre for Environmental Studies and Biodiversity (CEAB),
Universidad del Valle de Guatemala (UVG), Guatemala
Dresden, Germany
December 2021
3
About this report
The overall goal of the DIGIRES project (“Digitally-enabled green infrastructure for
sustainable water resources management in Latin America and the Caribbean”) is the
development and utilisation of ICT-based tools, coupled with citizen science observations,
for the design and implementation of managed aquifer recharge (MAR) as nature-inspired
solution for sustainable water resources management in Latin America and the Caribbean
(LAC). This technique is defined as a “purposeful recharge of an aquifer for later recovery or
environmental benefitsand despite its well-known ability to viably and sustainably supply
water in urban and peri-urban areas, its implementation is still very limited in many
regions.
In fact, MAR is mostly recognised as a tool to improve the availability of water for
agricultural productivity or drinking water provisioning. However, groundwater recharge
can also help to achieve many other objectives such as supporting riparian habitats,
mitigating floods, reducing runoff and erosion, controlling land subsidence, improving
coastal water quality and increasing the minimum flow in rivers. With this perspective,
MAR should be considered as an increasingly relevant non-conventional and innovative
solution for future integrated water management planning in LAC with the goal of
maintaining, enhancing and replenishing stressed groundwater systems and, at the same
time, ensuring the maintenance of ecological processes to mitigate climate change and
preserve biodiversity.
To this end, this report intends to demonstrate the potential of managed aquifer recharge
through the identification and dissemination of several success stories throughout the
LAC region, showing the great diversity of applications, water sources and MAR techniques
involved.
Urban
Rural
Ecosystem
Agriculture
Photo: Valparaiso, Chile (Loïc Mermilliod, unsplash.com)
4
Acknowledgement
This report was published within the framework of the DIGIRES
project, an ERANet-LAC project funded by the German Ministry of
Education and Technology (BMBF), Germany; National Fund for
Scientific Research (FNRS), Belgium; Brazilian National Council for
Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), Brazil; National
Council of Science and Technology (CONCYT), Guatemala; Science
and Innovation Financial Fund (FONCI), Cuba.
Read more: https://www.digires.inowas.com
Report compiled by
Catalin Stefan1, Miguel Moreno Gómez1, Catalina Zapata Barra1, Margarita Alonso
Asencio2, Jackeline Brinker Palomo2
1Research Group INOWAS, Technische Universität Dresden (TUD), Germany; 2Centre for
Environmental Studies and Biodiversity (CEAB), Universidad del Valle de Guatemala (UVG),
Guatemala
How to cite this report
Stefan, C.; Moreno Gómez, M; Zapata Barra, C.; Alonso Asencio, M.; Brinker Palomo, J.
(2021) Selection of best practices in managing the recharge of aquifers in Latin America.
Dresden, Germany, November 2021
Source photos:
www.unsplash.com (if not others specified)
.
The authors would like to express their gratitude to Andreea Stefan for the realization of the
sketches for managed aquifer recharge interventions and to Karen G. Villholth for the revisions
to the draft manuscript.
5
Content
Adaptation of ancient techniques for
groundwater recharge in Manglaralto,
Ecuador. Social engagement to recharge the aquifer
and to secure water supply in rural areas
Application of groundwater recharge to
counteract aquifer salinization in Paraguay.
Urban rainfall harvesting to recharge the aquifer and
minimize water supply and quality problems
Recovering groundwater levels in the Rimac
aquifer, Peru. Implementing MAR to recover
groundwater levels and secure water supply in urban
areas
MAR as a sustainable solution for the disposal
of treated wastewater in San Luis Rio
Colorado Mexico. Successful MAR scheme in Mexico
to counteract aquifer depletion and river
contamination
Groundwater recharge to increase water
availability for irrigation in rural areas of
Brazil. The benefits of maximizing groundwater
storage to improve food production
Application of managed recharge to boost
infiltration and prevent urban flooding in San
Luis Potosi, Mexico. The integration of MAR to
recover aquifer levels and minimize damage by
intense precipitation events
7
9
11
13
15
17
6
Application of groundwater recharge to
recover aquifer levels in the Ica valley, Peru.
Implementing MAR to help overcome water depletion
caused by extensive irrigation
Managed aquifer recharge as a measure to
lower production costs of drinking water in
Valparaiso, Chile. MAR techniques to boost natural
infiltration
A gradual path towards groundwater
recharge to face water-related problems in
the Department of Sucre, Colombia. Artificial
recharge as a viable solution to deal with groundwater
overexploitation
Groundwater recharge as a tool to minimize
flood risks and enhance infiltration in Natal,
Brazil. Integration of detention and infiltration
reservoirs into the urban drainage system
19
21
23
25
Adaptation of ancient techniques for
groundwater recharge in Manglaralto, Ecuador
Social engagement to recharge the aquifer
and to secure water supply in rural areas
Groundwater over
-abstraction
Water security / food security / livelihood
Groundwater quality / human health
Ecosystem degradation
Salinity issues / intrusion
The increasing demand for water supply (due to
population growth and tourism) in the Manglaralto
rural parish of Ecuador and the recent trend in
rainfall shortages have put local communities
under significant water stress. In this semi-arid
coastal area, the only source of fresh water is the
underlying aquifer, which is also at risk of seawater
intrusion due to the ongoing depletion of the
aquifer.
A Participatory Action Research (PAR) initiative
between rural communities and water authorities
was used to assess the problem and to develop
actions for securing the water supply. The
solutions included adaptations of ancient practices
that use artisanal dikes to retain surface water and
promote infiltration.
Since 2013, artisanal dykes (known locally as tapes)
have been built following a trial-and-error method.
The design of tapes in the Manglaralto river are
constantly evolving, promoting additional
groundwater recharge to secure supply and stop
saline intrusion.
The trial-and-error method has brought dykes to
failure during periods with high precipitation and
seawater intrusion was difficult to contain during
extreme dry seasons.
While there is a continuous increase of local water
demand, the construction of more tapes would
require more labour and a larger budget.
MOTIVATION APPROACH
CHALLENGES
How to benefit from social participation
and local knowledge in the application
of MAR strategies to secure water supply
for endangered rural communities.
Rural
Ecosystem
Dirt ‘tape’ in the Manglaralto river (photo: Niurka Alvarado
Macancela).
7
Groundwater piezometric levels in the
extraction wells show an increasing tendency,
which has also benefited the associated
ecosystems.
Participatory actions of the community helped
to improve the design of the dykes and to
increase efficiency.
For subsequent designs of the tapes, the use
of floodgates in the spillways is projected in
order to avoid dyke failure during extreme
rainfall.
OUTCOMES
WHAT’S NEXT?
READ MORE
Herrera-Franco, G., Carrión-Mero, P., Aguilar-Aguilar, M.,
Morante-Carballo, F., Jaya-Montalvo, M., & Morillo-
Balsera, M. C. (2020). Groundwater Resilience
Assessment in a Communal Coastal Aquifer System. The
Case of Manglaralto in Santa Elena, Ecuador.
Sustainability, 12(19), 8290. doi: 10.3390/su12198290.
Construction phase of a concrete dike in the
Manglaralto river (photo: I. Fajardo).
Capture zone
Manglaralto River
Pre-treatment
No pre
-treatment
Recharge
Artisanal dykes
Subsurface
Alluvial
deposits (gravel, sand and silt)
Recovery
Abstraction wells
Post-treatment
No post
-treatment
End use
Drinking
water supply / ecosystem
Managed aquifer recharge intervention
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
Bird habitat in the Manglaralto river (photo: Turismo Santa
Elena).
8
Application of groundwater recharge to
counteract aquifer salinization in Paraguay
Urban rainfall harvesting to recharge
the aquifer and minimize water supply
and quality problems
The climatic and topographic characteristics of the
Central Chaco region in Paraguay produce high
evaporation and lower precipitation, promoting a
deficit in the regional water balance. Moreover,
due to the absence of surface water streams, the
only other water source in the area are layers of
fresh groundwater (lenses) that float above
saltwater. The ongoing depletion of these
freshwater lenses has severe impacts on the
overall groundwater quality such as the increasing
salinization.
Given the characteristics of the region and drawing
on the managed recharge experiences of the local
indigenous people, who utilized recharge wells
surrounded by infiltration rings, the selected MAR
approach was the construction of tajamares
(infiltration ponds). The water source for these
ponds is precipitation.
Firstly, urban storm drains collect rainfall,
redirecting the flow towards the infiltration ponds
through lateral channels along the cities and
towns. Then, the infiltration ponds promote a fast
infiltration of the collected rainfall, minimizing
losses by evaporation and augmenting freshwater
volumes in the sub-surface, halting the ingress of
brackish water in the water supply.
Lack of sufficient space in urban areas for the
construction of new tajamares.
Given the lack of asphalt in many streets, fine
sediments are carried by runoff forming layers
at the bottom of the ponds. After some time,
this affects the infiltration rates, making
necessary corrective measures.
Groundwater over
-abstraction
Water security / food security / livelihood
Groundwater quality / human health
Ecosystem degradation
Salinity issues / intrusion
MOTIVATION APPROACH
CHALLENGES
Tajamar “La aguada” in Filadelfia city (photo: M. Duerksen).
How to increase groundwater storage and
stop saline intrusion by maximizing
infiltration in strategic locations.
Urban
9
Optimize traditional infiltration ponds
(increase infiltration volumes) in strategical
sites to satisfy water demand during
prolonged dry seasons.
OUTCOMES
WHAT’S NEXT? READ MORE
Godoy, E., Garcia, D., & Fariña, S. (1994). Recarga artificial
de acuífero freático en Filadelfia, Chaco Central
paraguayo [Artificial recharge of phreatic aquifer in
Filadelfia, Central Chaco Paraguay]. Águas Subterrâneas,
385-394.
Sediment removal in an infiltration pond (photo: E. Iglesias).
Managed aquifer recharge intervention
Capture zone
Urban rainwater harvesting
Pre-treatment
No pre
-treatment
Recharge
Infiltration ponds
Subsurface
Sandy loams and sand
Recovery
Abstraction wells
Post-treatment
No post
-treatment
End use
Urban
water supply
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
Large volumes of water can be stored in the
infiltration ponds. For example, tajamar
Serenidad infiltrated 12,800 m3 of water
during 1990-1993.
Freshwater lenses of about 7 meters of
thickness have been measured in the
subsurface of infiltration ponds, pushing down
brackish water.
Besides recharge, infiltration ponds can be
regarded as multi-purpose interventions, also
fulfilling tasks such as ecological support and
livelihoods (fish farming) and urban landscape
improvement (recreational parks).
10
Recovering groundwater levels in
the Rimac aquifer, Peru
Implementing MAR to recover
groundwater levels and secure
water supply in urban areas
Groundwater over
-abstraction
Water security / food security / livelihood
Groundwater quality / human health
Ecosystem degradation
Salinity issues / intrusion
The increasing water demand of the city of Lima
due to population growth has been progressively
depleting groundwater levels. The limited surface
water and further decreasing infiltration, due to
land use change given the constant urbanization,
have created a water security problem in the
Lima aquifer in terms of quantity and quality.
During periods of flooding in the Rimac River, there
is a surplus of up to 400 Mm3of water per year.
This volume of water is used in the ongoing
induced recharge project, which consists of
increasing the rate at which the aquifer is fed from
the riverbed.
The project included the adaptation of 22 km of
the riverbed to improve infiltration conditions and
the construction of wells along the river with the
objectives of extracting good quality groundwater
for public water supply, and to create the
necessary conditions to guarantee the immediate
replenishment of the aquifer, without negatively
affecting the existing reserves. The riverbank
infiltration works are also integrated with other
measures like monitoring campaigns and
conjunctive use of water.
Strategies are necessary to keep the upstream
part of the river free of suspended sediments that
can be carried by the flow.
The hydraulic connection between the river and
the phreatic level is not optimal. The water table is
very low under the riverbed.
MOTIVATION APPROACH
CHALLENGES
Interventions on the Rimac riverbed to improve
infiltration to the aquifer (photo: Revista Perú Construye).
How the inclusion of MAR, as part of
integrated actions, helps to counteract
groundwater overexploitation in rapidly
growing regions.
Urban
11
In a lapse of five years, the groundwater level
has recovered between 1 and 15 m (approx.
2 m/y) in most sections of the aquifer.
However, there are some areas with a
downward trend but with lesser intensity.
During the first three operational years, a
recharge volume of 10.8 Mm3was estimated.
The current abstraction rate is 9 m3/s, 1 m3/s
more than the estimated maximum
sustainable extraction rate. This deficit could
be progressively eliminated by the
continuation of the projects.
Evaluate and apply further measures to stop
groundwater depletion in critical sections of
the aquifer, such as continuing and
strengthening monitoring and promoting
other conjunctive water use projects.
OUTCOMES
WHAT’S NEXT? READ MORE
Quintana Albalat, J., Tovar Pacheco, J. 2002. Evaluación
del acuífero de Lima (Perú) y medidas correctoras para
contrarrestar la sobreexplotación [Evaluation of the
Lima aquifer (Peru) and corrective actions to counteract
overexploitation]. Boletín Geológico y Minero, 113 (3):
303-312. ISSN: 0366-0176.
Monitoring of the piezometer network of the Lima aquifer
(photo: SEDAPAL S.A.).
Managed aquifer recharge intervention
Capture zone
The Rimac river
Pre-treatment
No pre
-treatment
Recharge
River bank
filtration
Subsurface
Alluvial deposits (gravels, sands and clay)
Recovery
Extraction wells used to induce infiltration
Post-treatment
No post
-treatment
End use
Drinking water for Lima city
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
12
Groundwater over
-abstraction
Water security / food security / livelihood
Groundwater quality / human health
Ecosystem degradation
Salinity issues / intrusion
Managed aquifer recharge as an economically
suitable and sustainable solution for the
disposal of treated wastewater
Successful MAR scheme in Mexico to counteract
aquifer depletion and river contamination
The overexploitation of the aquifer in the semi-arid
region of the San Luis Rio Colorado (SLRC) city
required urgent measures to maintain its water
budget. Traditionally, urban sewage was directly
discharged into the rivers, polluting the area.
The construction and operation of a wastewater
treatment plant solved that issue but still large
volumes of treated wastewater required a
sustainable and economic approach for its reuse.
MOTIVATION
After economic and hydrological studies, the
infiltration of the treated wastewater proved to be
the most suitable solution in this area, as opposed
to using it directly for irrigation.
The infiltration system comprises a delivery channel
from the treatment plant, 12 infiltration ponds (four
of which are only used in extreme events) and
monitoring wells. The ponds are filled to different
heights in summer and winter depending on the
evaporation rates.
The ponds are wetted in pairs and alternated to
prevent the infiltration delay caused by increased
moisture in the subsoil. Maintenance is carried out
once the ponds have been taken out of operation
and dried, and it consists in the removal of the
crust formed by algae at the floor of the infiltrations
basins.
APPROACH
CHALLENGES
A better control for the concentration of
suspended solids in the inflow and on the
operation and maintenance protocols to delay the
clogging process.
How wastewater treatment together with
groundwater recharge minimize riparian
pollution and maintain groundwater
budgets in semi-arid regions.
UrbanEcosystem
Operational infiltration basins of 0.014 km2 each. Total
infrastructure cost of approximately USD 660,000
(photo: H. Hernandez). 13
OUTCOMES
WHAT’S NEXT?
Managed aquifer recharge intervention
Capture zone
Domestic sewage from SLRC city
Pre-treatment
WWTP (anaerobic processes)
Recharge
Infiltration ponds
Subsurface
Sands with discontinuous lenses of silt and clay
Recovery
Not
reported
Post-treatment
Natural filtration
End use
Storage
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
The infiltration rate of 8.2 Mm3/y of the MAR
infrastructure surpasses the yearly aquifer
abstraction volume of 7.5 Mm3.
The infiltrated treated wastewater showed a
considerable decrease in the microbiological
content after 20 m of transit through the vadose
zone.
After 10 years of operation, the amount of
contaminants removed remains stable; however,
there has been a considerable decrease in the
infiltration rate.
Ecological benefits arise since wastewater is no
longer discharged into the riverbed, minimizing
the health risk for downstream consumers and
negative ecological impacts.
READ MORE
Humberto, H. A. M., Raúl, C. C., Lorenzo, V. V., & Jorge, R. H.
(2018). Aquifer recharge with treated municipal
wastewater: long-term experience at San Luis Rio
Colorado, Sonora. Sustainable Water Resources
Management, 4(2), 251-260. doi: 10.1007/s40899-017-
0196-2.
Despite the infiltration process complies with the
Mexican standards, a continuous monitoring
process is necessary to identify water quality
variations that could affect the inherent
groundwater composition.
The ponds need to be scraped after two to three
wet-drying periods to restore the infiltration rate.
Clogging of infiltration pond soil, causing reduced infiltration and
loss of surface smoothness (photo: Humberto et al., 2018).
14
Groundwater over
-abstraction
Water security / food security / livelihood
Groundwater quality / human health
Ecosystem degradation
Salinity issues / intrusion
Groundwater recharge to increase water
availability for irrigation in rural areas of Brazil
The benefits of maximizing groundwater
storage to improve food production
RuralAgriculture
The shortages of precipitation in the Brazilian
semi-arid regions and ever-increasing demand
represent a threat for rural communities who are
dependent upon agriculture. Periods of droughts
severely affect not just the overall production, but
food security and livelihood of these rural
communities, making simple, low-cost, and easily
applicable technologies a priority.
MOTIVATION
In several communities from the states of
Pernambuco, Paraíba, Bahia, Ceará, and Rio Grande
do Norte, subsurface dams across streams and
valleys have been constructed to maximize
groundwater storage. They allow rainwater to be
stored underground during the rainy season with
an impermeable transverse wall in order to raise
the groundwater table. Then, the water is
recovered during the dry season.
Although easy to apply, the construction has to
comply with some technical requirements. For
example, the sediments must be predominantly
sandy to enhance infiltration, and when built on a
stream, the construction site must be at the
narrowest part of the riverbed, to maximize water
capture and minimize costs.
APPROACH
How MAR benefits rural and poor areas by
supporting irrigation and increasing food
production as a measure to counteract
hunger and poverty.
CHALLENGES
In some cases, depending on the influent water or
on the local conditions, the stored water might
become unsuitable for irrigation due to high
salinity. The interventions in natural groundwater
flow might have a negative impact on downstream
areas. The effort in water quality monitoring also
varied from site to site.
The costs of building underground dams can be up
to USD 1,300 if using heavy machinery.
Underground dam after a rain event in Ouricuri, state of
Pernambuco (photos: João Mello).
15
Managed aquifer recharge intervention
Capture zone
Rainwater
Pre-treatment
No pre
-treatment
Recharge
Sub
-surface dams
Subsurface
Variable
Recovery
Abstraction wells
Post-treatment
No post
-treatment
End use
Irrigation
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
OUTCOMES
The production of maize, beans and rice has
increased where this technique has been applied.
In some areas, harvesting was even possible during
the dry season.
The increased production has secured food for the
families, improving also their incomes after selling
the surplus of production. In addition, the owners
reported a better quality of the fruits and a better
food security for their animals.
The underground dams also promoted
environmental benefits such as soil
conservation/restoration, headwaters recovery and
groundwater replenishment.
WHAT’S NEXT?
Given the multiple conditions of the sites where
this MAR technique is applied, monitoring
strategies need to be adequate to maintain the
efficiency of the dams.
Constant communication between water
authorities and farmers is necessary to highlight
ongoing problems and to develop sustainable
solutions.
READ MORE
Shubo, T., Fernandes, L., & Montenegro, S. G. (2020). An
Overview of Managed Aquifer Recharge in
Brazil. Water, 12(4), 1072. doi:10.3390/w12041072.
Construction of a sub-surface dam in Campina Grande, state of
Paraíba (photo: R. Diniz).
16
Groundwater over
-abstraction
Water security / food security / livelihood
Groundwater quality / human health
Ecosystem degradation
Salinity issues / intrusion
Application of managed recharge to boost
infiltration and prevent urban flooding in
San Luis Potosi, Mexico
The integration of MAR to recover aquifer
levels and minimize damage by intense
precipitation events
Urban
In central Mexico, the aquifer supplying the San
Luis Potosi (SLP) valley has been overexploited to
fulfil the multiple regional water requirements. This
area has been experiencing extreme precipitation
events due to the changing climate, but
urbanization and impermeable surfaces do not
allow a natural infiltration to occur, affecting the
natural aquifer recovery.
Additionally, intense precipitation and steep
topography affect populated areas with flooding,
damaging properties, which in turn diminish
welfare and impair the economy.
MOTIVATION
The measures developed include flood protection
for the San Luis Potosi city together with
groundwater recharge to counteract the ongoing
depletion of the aquifer.
The proposal consisted of the construction of new
dams for flood control in the upper part of the
basin, the creation of a protected area for the
collection of rainwater runoff, as well as
interceptors and collectors for stormwater in the
conurbation area.
The Salk collector collects the rainwater and
stormwater runoff generated in a basin with a
surface of 8.2 km2and conveys it 1.4 km to an old
excavation site that is used as catchment area to
allow infiltration into the aquifer.
APPROACH
How integration of MAR in urban areas
helps to counteract aquifer depletion and
prevent urban flooding.
CHALLENGES
The lack of social awareness regarding the
functioning of the collector results in waste
accumulation in the streets. This is a common
problem since waste entering into the collector
minimize its transport capacity, making frequent
cleaning works necessary.
Construction of storm drains to divert rainwater and prevent
flooding and waterlogging (photo: El Sol de San Luis,
27.02.2021). 17
Managed aquifer recharge intervention
Capture zone
Urban runoff
Pre-treatment
Grids to remove solids
Recharge
Abandoned excavation site
Subsurface
Perched aquifer above compact fine sands
Recovery
Not
reported
Post-treatment
No post
-treatment
End use
Multiple purposes
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
OUTCOMES
The Salk collector can drain 22 m3/s, redirecting
captured water towards an area with a storage
capacity of 1,140,000 m3.
The grates on the streets above the collector
effectively separate solids and debris larger than
one inch.
The abandoned excavation site provides a natural
sedimentation process.
The Salk collector has decreased the flooding risk
of the southwest area of San Luis Potosi and
enhanced the replenishment of the aquifer.
WHAT’S NEXT?
The construction of observation wells would allow
the determination of recharge rates and
hydrodynamic parameters to support the
development of simulation models and to
determine the chemical interactions that could be
generated within the aquifer by the quality of the
injected water. However, the recharge system was
designed so that it is of a similar quality to that
abstracted for drinking water supply purposes.
Further steps include studying other areas of the
city prone to flooding and evaluating the possibility
of constructing additional collectors.
READ MORE
Briceño-Ruiz et al. 2017. Infiltración de agua de tormenta
al acuífero de San Luis Potosí, México: colector Salk
[Infiltration of stormwater in the Aquifer of San Luis
Potosi, Mexico: Salk collector]. In “Manejo de la recarga
de acuíferos: un enfoque hacia Latinoamérica”. Pag: 159-
186.
Recharge area (abandoned excavation site) to the SLP valley
aquifer (photo: Google Earth, May 2019).
18
Groundwater over
-abstraction
Water security / food security / livelihood
Groundwater quality / human health
Ecosystem degradation
Salinity issues / intrusion
Application of groundwater recharge
to recover aquifer levels in the Ica Valley, Peru
Implementing MAR to help overcome water
depletion caused by extensive irrigation
Urban
The intense groundwater extraction to irrigate
the approximately 35,000 ha of high-income
export agriculture in the Ica Valley in Peru has
put significant pressure on the groundwater
resources (75% of farmers do not have sufficient
water). Other factors affecting the sustainability
of the resource are land use changes for
irrigated agriculture and the growing population.
This situation has prompted the authorities and
private enterprises to seek ways to improve
water resources management, such as
promoting managed aquifer recharge, among
others.
MOTIVATION
The excess flow of the Ica river between 2013
2017 accounted for about 183 Mm3, which
corresponds to the presumed maximum volume to
be captured by a MAR scheme. Currently, water is
detained in the river during the Andean rainy
season by dams, later retained in sedimentation
ponds, and then diverted to infiltration ponds
(pozas) spread across the valley.
The land where the ponds are located was
borrowed from private land-owners, who were
informed about how the increase of groundwater
storage will favour the productivity of their wells
used for agricultural irrigation.
APPROACH
MAR technique as an important tool to
recover exploited aquifers and maintain
equilibrium in areas under high
anthropogenic pressure.
CHALLENGES
The monthly and annual variability of the river flow
is a challenge for water management. Moreover,
the annual average flow that could be recovered
during 20132017 was 36.5 m3/y, much lower than
the current rate of groundwater overexploitation of
52 Mm3/y.
In consequence, another 120 ha of ponds are
required to achieve groundwater balance but there
is a lack of available land and in dry years the
diminished river flow entails a lower infiltration
volume.
Also, poor ecological river conditions give rise to
large sediment load, affecting pond functioning.
Expansion of the frontier of irrigated agriculture onto
desert land (photo: Enrique Fernández-Escalante).
Agriculture
19
Managed aquifer recharge intervention
Capture zone
Ica River
Pre-treatment
Sedimentation ponds
Recharge
Infiltration
ponds
Subsurface
Quaternary unconsolidated fluvial
-alluvial sediments
Recovery
Extraction wells
Post-treatment
No post
-treatment
End use
Irrigation
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
OUTCOMES
Given the numerous benefits of MAR, in a period of
five years (2012-2015) the total area designed for
infiltration increased from 22,000 to 300,000 m2.
In 2017, an artificial recharge of 17.6 Mm3was
possible from 864 ponds occupying an area of
295 ha.
Annual cleaning and maintenance of both canals
and ponds has maintained an effective
groundwater resource augmentation.
WHAT’S NEXT?
The lack of suitable land for the construction of
more ponds makes necessary to consider other
techniques such as infiltration wells or galleries.
Further hydrological and geological studies are
necessary to determine groundwater flow and
therefore to optimize the location of future
infiltration sites.
Given the still ongoing groundwater depletion,
other techniques are required in addition to
ongoing MAR applications. For example, licensing
and metering of existing waterwells, and a
reduction in the cultivated land area. All these
measures require proactive dissemination and
awareness-raising in order to be successful.
READ MORE
Fernández-Escalante, E., Foster, S., & Navarro-Benegas, R.
(2020). Evolution and sustainability of groundwater use
from the Ica aquifers for the most profitable agriculture in
Peru. Hydrogeology Journal, 28, 26012612. doi:
10.1007/s10040-020-02203-0.
Full (top) and empty (bottom) infiltration ponds (photo: Enrique
Fernández-Escalante).
20
Groundwater over
-abstraction
Water security / food security / livelihood
Groundwater quality / human health
Ecosystem degradation
Salinity issues / intrusion
Managed aquifer recharge as a measure to
lower production costs of drinking water in
Valparaiso, Chile
MAR techniques to boost natural infiltration
Urban
In Chile, water companies are legally obliged to
acquire sufficient water rights to meet the demand
of the population at all times. However, in many
cases, new rights cannot be granted and the cost
of acquiring rights from third parties can be
extremely high.
It was therefore necessary to look for alternatives
that allowed an increment of the available water
for the drinking water treatment plant Las Vegas in
Valparaiso region in order to lower operational
costs and increase water security for the served
population.
MOTIVATION
The Las Vegas drinking water system has two
processes to capture water: on the surface, two
lateral intakes derive water from the Aconcagua
river, which undergoes initial treatment processes;
and underground, the drain Las Vegas, a
subsurface structure (30-40m below surface)
perpendicular to the river axis, capturing
groundwater of very low turbidity. Both water
sources are redirected towards a joint aqueduct
leading to the final disinfection stage.
The project goal was to increase the uptake of the
subsurface drain to increase the overall system
resilience and decrease the direct use of surface
water that requires more treatment and is
therefore more costly. To this end, several
infiltration ponds were created that collect the
excess water from surface intakes that could not be
treated by the plant. Then this water flows to the
drain where is collected for further use.
APPROACH
Groundwater recharge as a suitable
cost-effective solution to guarantee drinking
water production.
CHALLENGES
Maintenance of the infiltration ponds must be
optimal to minimize clogging and to keep an
acceptable infiltration capacity. Clogging can also
affect the drain and given its location, its
maintenance can drive additional operational
costs.
Aerial view of the Aconcagua river, infiltration ponds and
water treatment plant. The location of Las Vegas drain is
highlighted in red (photo: Google Earth, 2021). 21
Managed aquifer recharge intervention
Capture zone
Aconcagua
river
Pre-treatment
No pre
-treatment
Recharge
Infiltration
ponds
Subsurface
Coarse grained sediments with a sandy matrix
Recovery
Aqueduct
Post-treatment
Disinfection
End use
Distribution network of Gran Valparaiso area
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
OUTCOMES
Given the natural filtration properties of the
aquifer, all the water coming from the drain needs
less treatment, thus, overall operational costs are
decreased.
The ponds in operation provide about 15% of the
total flow captured by the Las Vegas underground
drain and have increased its effectiveness by
approximately 17% from 85,000 m3/d to 101,000
m3/d.
Despite the increased infiltration, the current pond
scheme doesn’t provide enough water to make the
drain the main water source for the drinking water
treatment plant.
WHAT’S NEXT?
Models have demonstrated that an infiltration area
of about 17 hectares (30-70 infiltration ponds)
would increase further the water volumes captured
by the drain Las Vegas to the optimum of 1.3 m3/s.
Future research topics include the analysis of
infiltrated water quality and how it affects the
aquifer, the accuracy of the data used and the
degree of influence they have on the result, the
feasibility of establishing a serious maintenance
regime and its possible economic implications.
READ MORE
Tobar Espinoza, E. A. (2009). Modelación del Efecto de la
Recarga Artificial Sobre la Operación del Dren Las Vegas.
Bachelor thesis, Universidad de Chile. Available in:
http://repositorio.uchile.cl/handle/2250/103531.
Surface intake diverting water from the Aconcagua river towards
Las Vegas water treatment plant (photo: SISS, 2014).
22
Groundwater over
-abstraction
Water security / food security / livelihood
Groundwater quality / human health
Ecosystem degradation
Salinity issues / intrusion
A gradual path towards groundwater
recharge to face water-related problems in
the Department of Sucre, Colombia
Artificial recharge as a viable solution to
deal with groundwater overexploitation
Urban
In Colombia, causes for groundwater depletion are
population growth, which implies the construction
of new urban areas that leads to the waterproofing
of soils and the alteration of natural cycles,
diminishing the natural recharge of the aquifer;
and the existence of many illegal extraction wells
that lead to an indiscriminate exploitation of the
resource, threatening the supply.
These problems have encouraged the analysis and
test of MAR as a feasible solution to deal with the
diminishing aquifer levels.
MOTIVATION
The pilot scheme for managed aquifer recharge in
the Morroa aquifer, department of Sucre, was built
to test the feasibility of MAR at larger scale. It
consists of a retaining wall that diverts surface
runoff from the basin into the works.
The water is firstly collected in a sedimentation
pond before being discharged to the artificial
recharge system consisting of infiltration trenches,
large diameter wells and infiltration ponds.
Water that fails to infiltrate into the infiltration pond
passes through filters before reaching a pool,
where it is treated for injection into a gravity-fed
well. Later, a second trench was built, which
receives excess water from the infiltration pond.
APPROACH
How MAR pilot sites help to design
sustainable strategies in regions facing
aquifer depletion.
CHALLENGES
The effects of certain processes such as
evaporation are not well represented at pilot scale.
For large scale applications, additional
measurements and calculations are necessary.
The lack of environmental policies and culture
greatly affect water bodies and future MAR
applications.
Infiltration trench (photo: José Luis Navarro, 2020).
Agriculture
23
Managed aquifer recharge intervention
Capture zone
Surface runoff
Pre-treatment
Sedimentation pond, sand
filters
Recharge
Infiltration pond, trenches, wells
Subsurface
Friable sandstones,
unconsolidated conglomerates
Recovery
Not
reported
Post-treatment
Variable
End use
Multiple (drinking, agriculture, livestock….)
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
OUTCOMES
Infiltration ponds are the most suitable MAR
technique for the region in terms of costs and
infiltrated water volumes, which vary between 52
and 622 m3/y.
The rest of the infiltration structures (large
diameter well, trench N° 1 and N°2) presented
infiltration flow rates ranging from 0.2 to 70 m3/y.
Despite this, the infiltration values are insignificant
compared to the pumping regime subjected to the
Morroa aquifer.
There is a relationship between rainfall and
infiltration flow rates: The years with the highest
and lowest flow rates are directly associated with
wet and dry years.
WHAT’S NEXT?
The evaluation of these pilot systems has provided
indispensable parameters for the design and
development of recharge works on a larger scale
(many of them currently under construction), which
together with an adequate use of the resource and
greater control can guarantee the future supply of
the population in the department of Sucre.
READ MORE
Navarro Mercado, J. L. (2020). Monitoreo de las
obras piloto de recarga artificial en el acuífero
Morroa, departamento de Sucre, Colombia.
Bachelor thesis, Universidad EAFIT.
Large diameter well (photo: José Luis Navarro, 2020).
24
Groundwater over
-abstraction
Water security / food security / livelihood
Groundwater quality / human health
Ecosystem degradation
Salinity issues / intrusion
Groundwater recharge as a tool to minimize flood
risks and enhance infiltration in Natal, Brazil
Integration of detention and infiltration
reservoirs into the urban drainage system
Urban
Causes for flooding are manifold: soil sealing or
channelization of runoff; real estate pressure
around green and other areas of natural aquifer
replenishment. All of them directly impact the
hydrological cycle and bring negative
consequences, such as serious problems for the
safety of homes, property and human lives.
In particular, in the city of Natal, Brazil, several
natural lagoons have disappeared to make way for
squares and buildings, but often they re-emerge
during rainy periods, causing frequent flooding.
Furthermore, due to the absence of drainage plans
in some areas of the city, there is a direct impact
on sanitation systems, contributing to the spread
of diseases and other public health issues.
MOTIVATION
To counteract this situation and to augment aquifer
storage, several detention and infiltration reservoirs
were built in the city. They are structures for the
temporary accumulation of rainwater. The
construction in public places (streets or squares)
help to avoid the formation of higher peaks of flow
that may cause urban flooding. Their objective is to
retain the water for a certain period of time,
regulating the outflow to a desired value, and thus,
promoting the damping of peak flows downstream.
Despite the stored water cannot be directly used
for human consumption (poor quality), other areas
take advantage from these storages such as
ecological, industrial and recreational activities.
APPROACH
MAR as a feasible solution against urban
floods and as a water source for multiple
uses.
CHALLENGES
The construction of structures the size of a
reservoir in the midst of a consolidated urban
space may also cause problems related to urban
impact, as well as higher costs resulting from
expropriation, among others.
The absence of infrastructure maintenance and
water quality monitoring directly impact the
functioning of the reservoirs (reduced retention
capacity, causing overflows onto the adjacent
roads, excessive vegetation, presence of untreated
sewage…).
Irregular discharge of untreated sewage into Lagoa da
Tarauca (photo: MPRN -Informação Técnica nº 088/2018). 25
Managed aquifer recharge intervention
Capture zone
Storm runoff
Pre-treatment
No pre
-treatment
Recharge
Detention and infiltration reservoirs
Subsurface
Alluvial and fluvial sediments
Recovery
Not
reported
Post-treatment
No post
-treatment
End use
Storage
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
OUTCOMES
In 2011 a total of 35 urban detention and
infiltration ponds were operational in Natal. They
are regarded as essential equipment for the
functioning of the urban drainage system of the
city, being the main destination of rainwater,
preventing flooding, as well as participating in the
replenishment of the aquifer through infiltration.
Despite their widespread use, they often have
structural problems, such as damaged slopes,
accumulated sediments inside the lagoon and the
irregular disposal of waste water.
Besides the enhanced infiltration and decreased
flooding risks provided by the reservoirs, they are
also used as water sources for other urban
services like irrigation of green areas, construction,
cooling systems, firefighting, etc.
WHAT’S NEXT?
The construction of a sewage pumping station is
expected to diminish or stop the disposal of
untreated sewage into the reservoirs.
Ongoing studies indicate the possibility to utilize
the stored water for human consumption in the
future. However, additional processes (pre- and
post-treatments) are necessary given the current
water quality indicators.
READ MORE
Silva, Selma & Neto, Cícero & Ingunza, Maria. (2019).
Potencialidade de uso não potável de água de lagoa de
detenção. Engenharia Sanitaria e Ambiental. 24. 1061-
1070. doi: 10.1590/s1413-41522019190821.
Mirassol Arena 'flooded' after 48 hours of rain. In dry periods the
reservoir works as an arena for football, handball and beach
volleyball (photo: Augusto Gomes/GloboEsporte.com).
26
Innovative Groundwater Solu tions
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