+34 93 401 18 60This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.UPC: C/ Jordi Girona 31, (08034 - Barcelona) - IDAEA: C/ Jordi Girona 18-26, (08034 - Barcelona)

+34 93 401 18 60This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
UPC: C/ Jordi Girona 31, (08034 - Barcelona) - IDAEA: C/ Jordi Girona 18-26, (08034 - Barcelona)

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Artificial recharge

Managed Aquifer Recharge


Artificial recharge is one of the many components involved in integrated water resources management. Integration means that conventional and non-conventional sources should be studied together. Among the latter, we focus on Managed Artificial Recharge (MAR).

MAR may be defined as controlled operations aimed at transferring water from ground surface into underlying aquifers. The issue of "managed operations" distinguishes this concept to that of natural replenishment or natural recharge. In a MAR facility location, flow rates and quality of the infiltration water are all decision variables, and thus need to be included into the design of the facility and subsequent operation. Moreover, being decision variables they can be included in an optimization process.

Area of Study

The main area of study is the Llobregat River, from the Sant Andreu Basin to the Lower Valley and the Delta. In this area several recharge activities are taking place simultaneously:

  • Scarification activities at the river bed (Lower Valley),
  • Deep injection from drinking water quality surpluses (Delta),
  • Surface ponds in Castellbisbal (St. Andreu Basin),
  • Surface ponds in St. Vicenç dels Horts (Lower Valley),
  • Seawater positive barrier (Delta), previously active, now discontinued
  • Surface ponds in Santa Coloma de Cervelló (Lower Valley), as a potential site for new activities
  • This research line is and has been done in collaboration with a number of European partners working on sites all along Europe, including Portugal (Algarve, stormwater infiltration), Spain (Santiuste, Segovia, river water infiltration), Italy (Brenta River and Serchio River, induced recharge and river water infiltration), Malta (desalinated water injected in deep wells), Greece (Athens and Thessaloniki, treated wastewater reinjection, and Israel (Dan Region, treated wastewater, and Menashe, desalinated water infiltration).



Research lines

Our research focuses on three main activities:

    1. Quantitative evaluation, focused on the variations of infiltration rates with time, coupled to bioclogging formation at the surface of the infiltration ponds or wells. An example of the evolution of the infiltration rate in the Sant Vicenç dels Horts site is given below


    1. Control and monitoring of water quality, including here both the variations in water quality during infiltration, focusing in particular in redox zonification, and the presence of mixing of the indigenous and the recharged water as a result of hydrodynamic dispersion. Emphasis is given to ways to promote such mixing.This work has been done by a combination of batch, column and tank experiments (see attached figure), field work and numerical simulations.


During infiltration a number of biogeochemical processes take place, allowing for a multidisciplinary analysis. For example, we can monitor oxygen content along a vertical transect and as a function of time.

And correlate it with an indicator of biological activity diversity, such as the electron transport system activity or the microbial functional diversity (a measure of entropy, known as the Shannon Index)


Emerging compound degradation during MAR practices, measured both in batch and column experiments, as well as in the Sant Vicenç dels Horts site (see figure)


Key Words

Artificial recharge, water quality, infiltration, clogging, emerging compounds

Key Projects




Armengol, S.; Sanchez-Vila, X.; Folch, A., An approach to aquifer vulnerability including uncertainty in a spatial random function framework, JOURNAL OF HYDROLOGY Volume: 517   Pages: 889-900   Published: SEP 19 2014

Barbieri, Manuela; Carrera, Jesus; Ayora, Carlos; et al., Formation of diclofenac and sulfamethoxazole reversible transformation products in aquifer material under denitrifying conditions: Batch experiments, SCIENCE OF THE TOTAL ENVIRONMENT Volume: 426   Pages: 256-263   Published: JUN 1 2012

Barbieri, Manuela; Carrera, Jesus; Sanchez-Vila, Xavier; et al., Microcosm experiments to control anaerobic redox conditions when studying the fate of organic micropollutants in aquifer material, JOURNAL OF CONTAMINANT HYDROLOGY Volume: 126   Issue: 3-4   Pages: 330-345   Published: NOV 1 2011

Barbieri, Manuela; Licha, Tobias; Noedler, Karsten; et al., Fate of beta-blockers in aquifer material under nitrate reducing conditions: Batch experiments, CHEMOSPHERE Volume: 89   Issue: 11   Pages: 1272-1277   Published: NOV 2012

Dutta, Tanushree; Carles-Brangari, Albert; Fernandez-Garcia, Daniel; et al., Vadose zone oxygen (O-2) dynamics during drying and wetting cycles: An artificial recharge laboratory experiment, JOURNAL OF HYDROLOGY Volume: 527   Pages: 151-159   Published: AUG 2015

Freixa, A.; Rubol, S.; Carles-Brangari, A.; et al., The effects of sediment depth and oxygen concentration on the use of organic matter: An experimental study using an infiltration sediment tank, SCIENCE OF THE TOTAL ENVIRONMENT Volume: 540   Special Issue: SI   Pages: 20-31   Published: JAN 1 2016

Jurado, Anna; Vazquez-Sune, Enric; Carrera, Jesus; et al., Quantifying chemical reactions by using mixing analysis, SCIENCE OF THE TOTAL ENVIRONMENT   Volume: 502   Pages: 448-456   Published: JAN 1 2015

Navarro-Ortega, Alicia; Acuna, Vicenc; Batalla, Ramon J.; et al., Assessing and forecasting the impacts of global change on Mediterranean rivers. The SCARCE Consolider project on Iberian basins, ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE AND POLLUTION RESEARCH Volume: 19   Issue: 4   Special Issue: SI   Pages: 918-933   Published: MAY 2012

Pedretti, Daniele; Barahona-Palomo, Marco; Bolster, Diogo; et al., A quick and inexpensive method to quantify spatially variable infiltration capacity for artificial recharge ponds using photographic images, JOURNAL OF HYDROLOGY Volume: 430   Pages: 118-126   Published: APR 2 2012

Pedretti, Daniele; Barahona-Palomo, Marco; Bolster, Diogo; et al., Probabilistic analysis of maintenance and operation of artificial recharge ponds, ADVANCES IN WATER RESOURCES Volume: 36   Special Issue: SI   Pages: 23-35   Published: FEB 2012

Pedretti, Daniele; Fernandez-Garcia, Daniel; Sanchez-Vila, Xavier; et al., Combining physical-based models and satellite images for the spatio-temporal assessment of soil infiltration capacity, STOCHASTIC ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH AND RISK ASSESSMENT Volume: 25   Issue: 8   Pages: 1065-1075   Published: DEC 2011

Rubol, S.; Freixa, A.; Carles-Brangari, A.; et al., Connecting bacterial colonization to physical and biochemical changes in a sand box infiltration experiment, JOURNAL OF HYDROLOGY Volume: 517   Pages: 317-327   Published: SEP 19 2014

Sanchez-Vila, Xavier; Rubol, Simonetta; Carles-Brangari, Albert; et al., An analytical solution to study substrate-microbial dynamics in soils, ADVANCES IN WATER RESOURCES Volume: 54   Pages: 181-190   Published: APR 2013

Schaffer, Mario; Kroeger, Kerrin Franziska; Noedler, Karsten; et al. Influence of a compost layer on the attenuation of 28 selected organic micropollutants under realistic soil aquifer treatment conditions: Insights from a large scale column experiment, WATER RESEARCH   Volume: 74   Pages: 110-121   Published: MAY 1 2015

Valhondo, Cristina; Carrera, Jesus; Ayora, Carlos; et al., Characterizing redox conditions and monitoring attenuation of selected pharmaceuticals during artificial recharge through a reactive layer, SCIENCE OF THE TOTAL ENVIRONMENT   Volume: 512   Pages: 240-250   Published: APR 15 2015

Valhondo, Cristina; Carrera, Jesus; Ayora, Carlos; et al., Behavior of nine selected emerging trace organic contaminants in an artificial recharge system supplemented with a reactive barrier, ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE AND POLLUTION RESEARCH   Volume: 21   Issue: 20   Pages: 11832-11843   Published: OCT 2014





















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