In the early 1980's the Italian scientific community, together with a number of institutional decision-makers, realized how urgent it was to protect natural and environmental resources. They agreed that an adequate level of scientifically organized knowledge allows the accurate planning and development of environmental systems through management and direction of the actual development process, without hindering it. Since the special project was first set up in 1984, as part of the GNDCI-CNR (National Group for the Defence against Hydrogeologic Disasters, of the Italian National Council of Research) scientific context, it has been the cardinal point of Research Line 4 “Assessment of Aquifer Vulnerability”. The problem of groundwater contamination was examined in this project for the very first time in Italy in an organic and extensive manner as a key for forecasting and prevention purposes. The Italian approaches to assessing and mapping groundwater vulnerability to contamination are essentially based on two main methodologies:
- The GNDCI Basic Method a HCS (Hazard Contamination Source) type approach that can be used for any type of Italian hydrogeologic situation, even where there is a limited amount of data. A unified legend and symbols are also defined for each hydrogeologic level.
- The SINTACS [Soggiacenza (depth to groundwater); Infiltrazione (effective infiltration); Non saturo (unsaturated zone attenuation capacity); Tipologia della copertura (soil/overburden attenuation capacity); Acquifero (saturated zone characteristics); Conducibilità (hydraulic conductivity); Superficie topografica (Slope)] method, a PCSM (Point Count System Model) developed for use prevalently in areas with good data base coverage.
The methodological approaches described in this paper now make up the Italian standard which has been set in the recent very important Italian Law (152/99) and which has now been ratified in the national guidelines produced by ANPA, the Italian National Agency for Environment Protection. In this paper the structure of the Research Line, the progress obtained by the 21 Research units (over 100 researchers) in 20 years of activity, the results gained etc. are briefly highlighted.