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SACRE - Integrated Water Solutions for Resilient Cities

Between 2013 and 2017, long periods of drought created a crisis in water supply for 48% of Brazilian municipalities, causing serious problems for public health, the economy, and the environment. Traditional solutions, based on centralized systems of single-source water supply, have proven ineffective in Brazil and in developing countries. Therefore, the central objective of the SACRE Project is to create "hydroeconomic hybrids" solutions, those that reduce vulnerability in urban and rural water supply and treat contaminated waters, through the integrated use of classical and innovative engineering methods, management, and nature-based techniques (NE&MS: Nature, Engineering and Management based Solutions).


SACRE is a multi-project that will address the development of original research and technologies through fieldwork, high-level human resources training, and social communication, whose results will ultimately support and create public policies aimed at water resources management. The project is supported by four pillars: technological and scientific development; public policies; high-level human resources training; and communication. The central idea is that science should underpin policies, through training and the formation of new professionals, scientific communication, and listening to society and government officials.


The work is based on water flow modeling and reactive contaminant transport, coupling aquifers and surface water bodies; concepts of water resources allocation and conjunctive use of surface and groundwater; low-cost groundwater treatment solutions (reactive barriers, focusing on nitrate and emerging contaminants); managed aquifer recharge (MAR); and hybrid aquifer-river capture systems (riverbank filtration).


The development of monitoring and remediation methods for aquifers contaminated by multipoint and diffuse sources, based on NE&MS, will provide unprecedented scientific advances to the country and may generate patentable technologies. All solutions for increasing supply, treating and allocating rural and urban waters will be evaluated within a new administrative arrangement for water resource management, taking into account socioeconomic aspects, social habits of users ("public and private water producers") and land use policies. Technical solutions and institutional involvement will be tested in a pioneering study in the headwaters of the Bauru-Batalha river basins, where part of the municipalities of Bauru, Piratininga, and Agudos (SP) are located.


The cutting-edge interdisciplinary scientific experience in the areas of hydrogeology, hydrological engineering, socioeconomics, and water governance, based on the development and adaptation of NE&MS, will allow the creation of a hydroeconomic digital platform with multiple solutions (HYMP: HYdroeconomic, Multiple solutions Platform) that will assist in water resources management suitable to the biophysical and socioeconomic conditions of the State of São Paulo.


The SACRE Project also brings another novelty, which is the involvement of the main institutional leaders in the management of underground water resources in the State of São Paulo (IPA, CETESB, IPT, SIMAL, DAEE), in partnership with national universities (USP, UNESP, UNICAMP, and UNIFESP) and foreign universities (University of Waterloo in Canada and Hiroshima University in Japan), receiving formal support from the governments of the State of São Paulo, Canada, and the Municipality of Bauru. In total, there are 41 professionals, most with a doctoral degree.


The training of human resources is another highlight of SACRE. Currently, the project has 26 students and researcher scholarship holders, and 4 non-scholarship holders, including 1 Young Researcher; 2 Post-Doctorates (PD); 5 Direct Doctorates; 3 Doctorates; 5 Masters; 4 Technological Training (TT); 4 Scientific Initiation (IC); and 4 Course Conclusion Work (and still 8 unoccupied scholarships, including 1 PD, 1 Scientific Journalism, 3 IC, and 3 TT). On-site courses and training are also developed and aimed at both local and state stakeholders, as well as Basin Committees and national organizations.


Scientific communication plays a decisive role in SACRE, as it is understood that public policies are effective when built in agreement with society and its stakeholders. As a scientific project, scientific literacy is fundamental for contemporary society, especially in new topics such as global climate change and nature-based solutions. For this reason, the project has journalists and scientific communicators in its team, as well as holding its own events, such as the Meeting of Waters, HydroGeoDay, and specific products in digital media.


At the end of the SACRE Project, a permanent forum will be created with the purpose of supporting the management of groundwater, through partner government agencies. SACRE is funded by FAPESP through the Thematic Project (2020/15434-0) and Young Researcher (2021/12817-8); by CNPq through the Universal Project (423950/2021-5); and scholarships from FAPESP, CAPES, CNPq, and USP itself, exceeding the amount of 11 million reais.

¹A water crisis occurs when three phenomena act synchronously: drought; lack of infrastructure and investment; and lack of management.


³Water allocation is a management process employed to regulate multiple uses in regions of conflicts, emergency situations, or suffering from intense droughts (ANA 2023).

⁴Joint use strategies aim to increase the overall resilience of water supply, using surface and groundwater sources in an integrated manner, especially in communities and hydrographic basins with seasonal rainfall patterns.

⁵Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) refers to the direct or indirect intentional injection of water into aquifers for subsequent use or environmental benefit. MAR offers numerous benefits, including: increased water availability in aquifers, storage to improve rural and urban water supply security, regulation of water bodies, pollution control, and water treatment.

⁶The concept of "private water producer" refers to: (i) private well or spring owners; (ii) reuse water producers; and (iii) farmers, who control or restrict their agricultural activity to reduce water demand in exchange for financial compensation.

⁷Scientific literacy refers to the understanding of scientific concepts so that citizens can use them for their own benefit and that of society.

⁸Meeting of Waters: a hybrid event held bimonthly where experts present and discuss topics related to SACRE to the general public.

⁹This event consists of a technical visit guided by SACRE researchers to points of interest in water resources and hydrogeology and is aimed at the general public, being part of the World Water Day celebrations (March 22).

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