The Academy of Finland has selected the projects to be included in the Research Programme on the Sustainable Governance of Aquatic Resources (AKVA). Within the AKVA programme, a total of EUR 11 million is granted to twelve research projects. The programme is highly multidisciplinary and focuses on researching aquatic resources and their use from various perspectives, including environmental research, law and culture research.
The call for letters of intent for the AKVA programme attracted 65 applications, of which 33 projects were invited to submit a full application at the second application stage. Among the twelve projects that were granted funding, ten are consortiums composed of several research teams. Research within the programme will be conducted at the Universities of Helsinki, Oulu, Eastern Finland, Tampere and Turku and at Aalto University. The research institutes involved in the programme are the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), MTT Agrifood Research Finland, the Government Institute for Economic Research (VATT), the Finnish Forest Research Institute (Metla), and the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).
In his project, Ilkka Miettinen (THL) is researching how to improve the sustainable use of aquatic resources and secure the supplies. The project will establish interdisciplinary links between water cycles, water contamination, risk assessment, cost of mitigation actions and social impacts. The experimental work will focus on water quality changes at the Kokemäenjoki River in Finland and on the artificial recharge of groundwater. Pathogenic microbes and harmful chemicals (pharmaceuticals and sweeteners) will be determined and mathematical models of the transfer of microbes and chemicals in the river until drinking water abstraction will be computed. Health risk assessment aims at quantification of harmful effects originating from microbes and chemicals. Economic models will cover the costs of health effects compared to the costs of mitigation actions. The risk attribution, communication and governance will be also studied. In addition to THL, the research consortium also involves SYKE and VATT.
Land-use actions, such as groundwater abstraction, pose a threat to groundwater, as they may lower the groundwater table and deplete groundwater resources. The focus of the project led by Björn Klöve (University of Oulu) is on gaining a better understanding of groundwater ecosystems and of how groundwater resources and land use should be managed in the future. Changes in groundwater flows may affect groundwater-dependent ecosystems that have a rich biodiversity but whose functions are so far only poorly understood. In holistic water resources management, not enough attention has been paid to groundwater and groundwater ecosystems. Consequently, efforts should be made in the future to make groundwater use better meet the requirements of groundwater ecosystems. The project will investigate different ecosystems, such as springs, streams and kettle lakes, where most of the water comes from esker groundwater.
The AKVA programme will also investigate the cultural meanings of water. In her project,Arja Rosenholm (University of Tampere) is researching the meanings of water and how water, as an essential life-vitalising element, plays a conceptual role in cultural orientation both in global and local contexts and how cultural practices intersect with environmental concerns. In the project, water is understood as a geographical and physical construct, and as a cognitive and cultural construction. The aim is to underline the polyvalence of meanings and values given to water. At stake are the economic, social and political implications. The project aims to improve knowledge of the large reservoir of symbols, metaphors and imagery of water, to enhance the capacity and competence for the future governance of sustainable water issues, to advance critical knowledge of the technological infrastructure as part of the social imagination, and to create a productive methodological dialogue between literary, language and cultural studies as well as environmental studies and engineering.