LivingLabs to protect European aquifers: MAR2PROTECT project launches its next phase


The European research project MAR2PROTECT, in which we participate, aims to protect groundwater from pollution through an innovative and holistic approach, bringing together two main strategies, the M-AI-R tool and the LivingLabs, in order to create new approaches to safeguard groundwater, which is increasingly vulnerable to climate change.

The M-AI-R tool will be placed in at-risk aquifers and will receive real-time information from sensors in order to quantify the impacts of global/climate change on groundwater. At the same time, LivingLabs are being set up in each aquifer region, creating a space for interaction where stakeholders are at the center of the innovation process.

There are seven demonstration sites spread across Africa and Europe: South Africa, Tunisia, the Netherlands and Spain, with one site each, and Portugal, with two. These sites have been carefully chosen based on their success in previous projects, as well as climatic conditions, water sources, types of pollution, managed aquifer recharge systems and socio-political contexts.

The project started in December 2022 and will last four years. It is funded by the Horizon Europe program at a total cost of €4,143,681.25. MAR2PROTECT will mark the beginning of a new generation of managed aquifer recharge (MAR) systems involving stakeholders that will improve both groundwater quality and quantity.

Innovation experiments with stakeholders in real contexts

A tailored methodology is currently being deployed in each demonstration center to establish LivingsLabs. These LivingLabs bring together stakeholders ranging from citizens and civil society organizations to scientists, public sector agencies and industry leaders. These innovation spaces are a series of workshops that allow stakeholders to give their opinion on the effectiveness, suitability and replication potential of the technologies applied. Through this co-creative approach, stakeholders will also help the project identify the best forms of local social engagement, such as community awareness and water pollution prevention, beyond the mere application of project technologies. In this way, MAR2PROTECT will conduct cutting-edge research and trigger changes in a real context. The first LivingLab will be launched in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna on December 5, 2023.

A multidisciplinary consortium

MAR2PROTECT brings together 11 partners from 7 countries to form a diverse and dynamic consortium, coordinated by FCT NOVA. It involves 7 Research and Technology Organizations (CIIMAR, CETAQUA, AQUATEC, IHE, IT, ISSBAT and SUWI), 3 universities (FCT NOVA, UNIBO and KTU) and our headquarters as a technology transfer entity. It also includes 3 large water supply companies (AdTA, Dunea and HERA), 1 university (FHNW) and 1 public administration (City of Cape Town) as associated partners.