River basin

The Adige is the second longest river in Italy, with a length of 410 km and a drainage area of 12000 km2. Its source is near the border with Austria and Switzerland and enters the Adriatic Sea south of the Venice lagoon.


Potential stressors

As in most of the central and southern Alps, climate in the Adige river basin is characterized by dry winters, snowmelt in the spring and humid summer and falls. Because of its morphology and humid climate, the river basin is well suited for hydroelectric production, and to date 30 major reservoirs exist in the catchment, for a total storage capacity of 571 106 m3 (8.5% of the long-term mean annual runoff). These reservoirs supply 34 major hydropower plants, for a total installed power of 983 MW, and potential energy production of 4123 GWh/year. Because of hydropower production streamflow is alterated, particularly at intermediate and low flow regimes. Earlier snow melting are already affecting the Adige river basin reducing water resources availability during the irrigation period (roughly June-August), while the higher temperature recorded in the summer months is expected to cause an increase of water demand in this period. This is expected to increase the deficit of water resources in summer, when agricultural and recreational uses reach the higher demand, thereby exacerbating the conflicts between different uses of water resources. Diffused pollution by agriculture in the central and lower course of the Adige River represents a relevant environmental pressure factor. In particular, pesticides have been widely used in the widespread apple trees cultivations. Furthermore, induced hydropeaking effects can also have severe consequences on contaminant loads transported in the stream. Another important stressor of the aquatic ecosystem relevant for the upper part of basin, may be the release of pollutants (e.g., POPs & DDT) accumulated in the glaciers and the release of emerging pollutants (e.g., drugs, pharmaceuticals and personal care products, in particular UV filters) from the WWTPs serving the ski resorts. Additionally when Adige passes through the city of Trento, it flows close to a heavily contaminated site (Ex-SLOI and Ex-Carbochimica, contaminated by tetraethyllead and POPs).


Study area

Among the entire basin, the Noce River will be specially studied due to the large diversity in water use in this tributary in addition to geology, hydrology and ecology in a catchment spanning more than 3000 m in elevation.


Globaqua contributions

  • to develop a sediment and pollutant transport model and the interactions between surface water, groundwater and the hyporheic zone;
  • to monitor the impact of the main stressors on the basin;
  • to develop policies for sustainable hydropower tourism and agriculture activities;
  • to provide policies for adaptation considering water management under climate change conditions.

Contact person: Alberto Bellin (UNITN),

Members Area


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