OPTIMA: Optimisation   for Sustainable
Water Resources Management

Relevance to Programme Objectives

The proposed project brings together a large but well balanced team of companies, academic and state institutions and NGOs, four from the European Communities and nine rom accession, candidate, and Mediterranean Partner Countries, namely Cyprus and Malta, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Tunisia, and Morocco, including five SMEs from Austria, Greece, Lebanon, Cyprus, and Malta. This wide regional participation is in line with the programmes overall objective of opening up the European Research Area.

Expertise and resources of the European partners are harnessed, in close cooperation with local expertise provided by the MPC teams, to address challenges and specific problems of the Mediterranean region, which at the same time provide a testing ground for methods and approaches more generally applicable within and outside the region.

This is well in line with the overall objectives of the call FP6-2002-INCO-MPC-1: the results of the project are designed to directly benefit the Mediterranean partner countries, and in particular by involving local administrations, in each of the case studies and across the region through the planned networking and dissemination activities.

The well balanced structure of the consortium including the five SMEs and the work plan are designed to enable a close collaboration in the spirit of mutual benefit, and common learning. In particular in the water sector, water poor countries have considerable experience with water technologies and the efficient use of this scarce resource. The emphasis here is not on technology transfer, but on joint research and development, with each team contributing its respective strength and specific experience within a common conceptual and methodological framework of applied systems analysis. This is in line with the programme objective to help European researchers, businesses and research organisations in the EU and the countries associated with the framework programme to have access to knowledge and expertise existing elsewhere in the world, and at the same time opening up markets for future business opportunities and joint ventures.

The emphasis on innovative decision support methodology contributes to the Lisbon objective of Europe becoming the most competitive knowledge based economy in the world by 2010. This thematic priority emphasises the importance of innovation and the integration of SMEs in order to reach the Lisbon goal. The project directly involves and addresses the state and its institutions starting with regional and local government, an emerging water industry, as well as the civic society as the ultimate end users of policy research for sustainable development and giving due consideration to market forces as major controlling element in development and any sustainable resource management strategy. Tools for the analysis and operational management of complex natural resources systems and integrated Decision Support Systems, implementing concepts of applied systems analysis are the expected product: Again, this approach and its objective contribute directly to the objectives of the programme as expressed in the call FP6-2002-INCO-MPC.

At the National level, we will look at the association agreements between the EU and Tunisia, (298A0330(01) July 1995), and Morocco (200A0318(01), February 1996). Particular focus on Protocol 1 on the arrangements applying to imports into the Community of agricultural products originating in [the North African signatory], and Protocol 3 on the arrangements applying to imports into [the North African signatory] of agricultural products originating in the Community will lead to a better understanding of scenarios for the agricultural sector in each region. Tunisia is the most advanced of the Euro-Med partners as far as the introduction of a free trade area with the European Union The Commission has considered its development strategy with Morocco and has prepared a Country Strategy Paper (2000-2006) which has been used as a base for the National Indicative Programme 2000-2002 (NIP), established in agreement with the Moroccan authorities.

Of special interest is a 3 year project on improving water management in Morocco entitled 'Structural Adjustment Facility for the Water Sector', that aims at supporting adoption and implementation of legislative, regulatory, financial, and technical measures designed to increase the efficiency of water utilisation in Morocco. Specific objectives of the project are to ensure effective implementation of the framework water legislation adopted in 1995, to reduce the cost of the water sector for the national budget, and to increase the efficiency of institutions in charge of water management. All three of these countries are part of an important initiative that was recently taken at Agadir that includes Jordan as the fourth partner. In this agreement, these countries have expressed the desire to create a free trade area among themselves, and this is significant because it involves both Maghreb and Mashraq countries.

At the regional level, the Regional Strategy Paper 2002-2006 & Regional Indicative Programme 2002-2004 focus on the objective of promoting regional, sub-regional and cross-border co-operation between the EU and Mediterranean partners, and between the Mediterranean partners themselves. Thus providing a strategic framework for the European Community's MEDA assistance program. The overall strategy is determined by the Barcelona Process/Euro-Med partnership, agreed in 1995.

The outputs of this project will be specifically relevant to several of the priority areas selected for their regional added-value: Making the Euro-Med Free Trade Zone a reality and Promoting the Sustainability of the Euro-Med Integration.

Water is a key limiting resource for continuing economic development in the Mediterranean region, for increased quality of life and ultimately a peaceful and sustainable development. Recognising the severity of the situation and the importance of water, every contribution to the development of appropriate tools and solutions that considers a broad range of criteria and decision variables likely to reduce pressure on already overextended water resources and to avoid irreversible damage, will have a positive impact. The project addresses integrated management of limited water resources in the region, with emphasis on water technologies for increased efficiency including recycling and reuse, alternative allocation strategies to improve overall efficiency, and the whole range of environmental impacts. This includes a broad range of considerations such as distribution and efficiency of competing uses (irrigation, industrial and municipal uses including tourism development, water quality, effluent control, etc.); complementary sources of supply (conjunctive use of surface and groundwater, desalination); technological considerations (waste water treatment and reuse, desalination, water technologies for efficient water use, etc.) and socio-demographic conditions (such as population growth, rapid urbanisation, industrialisation, stakeholders demand, the institutional framework, market forces, etc.).

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