Dora Baltea is a glacial river basin of almost 4000 km2 in the northwest of the Italian Alps with the typical natural attributes of mountain rivers:
- high average altitude,
- very low water temperature,
- steep slopes,
- high water speed and natural rate of discharge,
- dominance of rocky substrates,
- riverbeds with low exposure to the sun and high sediment transport.
In the last century, the river has been heavily exploited in support of economic growth and urban expansion, eroding ecological assets such as riparian vegetation, flood plains and natural water discharge. In particular, hundreds of hydropower plants have been built in a river network already affected by withdrawals for irrigation and, more recently, major hydraulic works.
River ecosystem services (such as environmental conservation, landscape protection, water tourism, irrigation and angling) are well identified and hold related stakeholders concerned by river management & planning. River use conflicts are increasing and need to be solved. The SPARE challenge is to develop a quantitative assessment approach to the compatibility of different ecosystem services. This will be based on a data-driven improved management and planning model fed by continuous water discharge monitoring data. The approach will include step by step participation by stakeholders; a monitoring demonstration site and a web site have been planned to ensure transparency and facilitate the application of results to other river basins.