One of the common challenges that are being encountered in the cross border area is the lack of an interregional strategy for water quality monitoring and improvement. Although in Greece, water management procedures have been adjusted and enhanced by the use of innovative technology, in Bulgaria the problem of ineffective water supply networks and monitoring is apparent as stated in the Strategic Evaluation on Environment and Risk Prevention under Structural and Cohesion Funds 2007-2013. In order to address this challenge, a joint effort from Greek and Bulgarian stakeholders should take place towards the exchange of knowhow, the development of common tools and policies. Lead Beneficiary – Municipality of Oraiokastro (PB1) has long now proven its interest in the subject and has undertaken initiatives as in the case of CIVILWATER project. Therefore, the incentive of PB1 is to transfer existing knowhow to the Municipality of Dimitrovgrad while increasing its own capacity of addressing drinking water quality problems in the area. According to the Programme analysis, water pollution is a common threat between Greek and Bulgarian sides, while there is an increased proportion of classified bodies that do not meet Good Ecological Statues (GES) and cases with unknown chemical status in Greece. The low level of GES is attributed to a variety of reasons that include industrial pollution, pollution from agricultural activities and inadequate water management. Specifically, the concertation of hydrogen sulfide/H2S (>0), iron/Fe (764,3 mg/l) and manganese/Mn (86,2 mg/l) in the water network of Anthoupoli, Oraiokastro is higher that the acceptable levels (H2S=0, Fe<0,2mg/l and Mn<50mg/l) that have been established by the Greek legislation (ΚΥΑ Υ2/2600/2001). In Dimitrovgrad, the amount of water produced from all sources was 6.162.498 m3 in 2014, channeled by 19 zones. For many of the settlements that are supplied with water from the river Maritsa, unusual levels of manganese and its oxides are observed. Generally in Bulgaria (as of 2012) the number of samples not corresponding to the norms about mechanical/chemical/ radiological parameters are 94% of total measures and 96.6% about microbiological parameters. Additionally, most of the water supply networks are made of asbestos cement pipes, leading to a deterioration in the quality of drinking water while in remote areas with small populations where drinking water originates mainly from local drillings, several problems related to drinking water quality emerge, while many others may remain unidentified, since drinking water quality is not effectively monitored in these areas. The project is also essential for the two PBs in order for them to comply with WFD 2000/60 in terms of protecting water quallity and developing a common approach for state members. The project has two main target groups: the first one refers to the local communities of Oraiokastro and Dimitrovgrad that will enjoy safe and sanitized drinking water and will be protected from health hazards that occur from inappropriate, low quality water; the second one refers to the Beneficiaries (and their water enterprises which will operate the systems after the end of the project) that will be equipped with innovative systems either for water sanitation (Oraiokastro) or early warning in cases of water pollution (Dimitrovgrad). Additionally, water bodies and policy makers in the cross border area will gain access to an online water quality monitoring database which will work as a decision support system for further investments and interventions as well as policies. Although the project focuses on the two implementation areas, its scope exceeds them and gains a cross border character through actions that foster the creation of a joined desicion support system, development of knowhow and initiation of public discuss among relevant stakeholders in the CB area.The project applies the proposed (by the Programme) approach of the promotion of innovative technologies in water management sector and especially in industrial (Oraiokastro) and agricultural (Dimitrovgrad) pollution areas. To the best knowledge of the PBs, this is the first time that a project focuses on drinking water quality in urban and semi urban areas with the intention to not only improve local conditions but also initiate an interregional public discuss on the matter by providing the necessary tools for cooperation between different authorities.

The main objective of “Aquality” project is to enhance drinking water quality and reduce health hazards. 

This will be achieved with the implementation of an innovative early warning system for water pollution and a sanitation system. Consequently, the project will contribute significantly to the priorities set by the Programme since it will “promote innovative technologies to improve environmental protection and resource efficiency in the waste sector, water sector, soil protection etc”. It has been acknowledged that the main source of water pollution in Greece is agriculture, while in Bulgaria the main water pollution sources are industry and urban effluents. For this reason PBs have included a study which will identify and record spots of environmental pressure such as industrial or livestock units (georefering of the spots) in order to investigate the extent of their impact in water quality and make suggestions on interventions that should take place in order to limit this impact.The rest of proposed activities also contribute to the specific object 6 “to enhance water management” by giving beneficiaries the necessary tools for providing drinking water of higher quality to their residents, improve their capacity to address water pollution incidents in a direct and cost efficient way, comply with Directive 2000/60/EC and design well targeted strategies in the field of drinking water quality.Last but not least, the project is based on the two pillars of the Programme: the exchange of knowhow and good practices among beneficiaries; and the implementation of initiatives that foster and facilitate further cooperation among stakeholders in the cross border area.

The main expected results from the project implementation:

The project will have significant results for both residents in the implementation area as well as beneficiaries and water management bodies in the whole CB area.First of all, the quality of drinking water in Oraiokastro will be improved dramatically and it will be appropriate for human consumption. This is expected to have a wider social impact because it will contribute to improved health status and living standards in the area (Scientific studies have proven that there is a positive interrelationship between health status and economic development). Additionally, the early warning system will assist Project Beneficiary 2- Municipality of Dimitrovgrad (PB2) in complying with Water Framework Directive 2000/60 (by addressing pollution from urban waste water and from agriculture) and protect citizens from being exposed to health hazards related to the consumption of polluted water. From an economic point of view, PB2 will achieve reduction of operational and managerial costs of drinking water management due to early identification and/or prevention of potential accidents. Additionally, the reduction of water related hygienic problems will lead to further economic benefits due to improved health conditions and thus decrease of public spending for health care provisions.As far as beneficiaries and water management bodies are concerned, the project provides them with the opportunity to gain significant knowhow in applying innovative technologies for monitoring and improving drinking water quality. Furthermore, the development of tools to support and facilitate water monitoring could be the first step towards a joint policy for addressing common challenges. Last but not least, publicity actions will reinforce public awareness on issues of water conservation, the importance of water sanitation and the contribution of EU funds in regional development.

The main outputs of the project are divided into 4 thematic categories (WP), each of which has a distinctive objective.

In WP1, PBs will produce regular progress reports (on a semiannual base) according to the Project Implementation Guide as well as three project meetings. These outputs will ensure the efficient management of the project and its implementation according to activities’ time-schedule.In WP2, outputs aim at the dissemination of project results and raising awareness in local communities and include: a strategic communication plan, a website (developed according to WCAG 2.0 for people with disabilities), publicity material (4000 leaflets, 3000 brochures, 8 banners, 150 posters and 500 folders), 5 press releases in local media and an International closing conference in Thessaloniki. WP3 is focused on the development of drinking water monitoring and improvement systems and includes the supply of a water processing and sanitation system (with all relevant works that need to be implemented in order to be fully functional), the elaboration of two studies on spots of environmental pressure, the supply and establishment of equipment for the pilot action, and the pilot actions for the two beneficiaries.Finally, the outputs of WP4 have a threefold aim: i) the evaluation of pilot actions through sampling tests which will result in 2 evaluation reports, ii) the dissemination of know how through the elaboration of an environmental guide with examples of best practices and seminars for the end users of the early warning system (30 participants) and iii) the development of an integrated water monitoring tool in the CB area, which will work as a decision support system.In the framework of the project “Aqua-lity” will be jointly implemented by all beneficiaries through parallel & integrated activities and it is divided in 4 well-structured thematic Work Packages, each of which concerns an integrated and complete group of activities.