Project: Optimizing water use in agriculture to preserve soil and water resources

Acronym water4ever (Reference Number: WaterJPI-JC-2016_20)
Duration 01/04/2017 - 30/03/2020
Project Topic Societal development has been built on increasing irrigation and urban/industry water consumption. Irrigation has a double effect on water resources: (a) enhances evapotranspiration, reducing annual river discharges and aquifer recharges, and (b) the excess of irrigation water causes nutrient lixiviation and soil erosion decreasing long term soil productivity and causing eutrophication. In some catchments the excess of irrigation is so important (e.g. river Flume in Spain) that the river discharge is higher during the irrigation season, than during winter when water is being stored in reservoirs. Farmers and Water Agencies are the main water actors, but they act at different scales. For farmers, the spatial scale is the parcel and the temporal scale is the crop lifetime while for Water Agencies the spatial scale is the catchment size and the time scale is the catchment water residence time. The need to address both scales in the same tools gets evident when water pollution becomes an issue – excess of irrigation per parcel - and/or during periods of scarcity when the resource is not enough to supply the demand. The different scales for farmers and Water Agencies also explain the difference between their traditional advisors. The water4ever project aims to address both scales and to contribute for their conciliation through the description of the full water path across the catchment, from the farmer plot up to the catchment discharge point. The project recognizes that tools necessary for the success of the EU legislation have to contribute to improve water and fertilization efficiency in agriculture. The project is focused on agriculture, aiming (1) to develop tools to help farmers to improve the efficiency of irrigation, to optimize fertilization and to promote soil conservation and (2) to integrate farming activity into catchment models in order to build the link between the parcel scale and the catchment scale contributing to explain the ecological state of water masses and to forecast the benefits of new agricultural practices. The project builds on the combination of (a) modelling: to promote integration of disciplines and scales and to create forecasting capacity, (b) remote sensing: to assess data products already available at the catchment and local scales and (c) on in situ data: to get the ground truth and values of properties that can only be measured locally. Fully distributed catchment models including the vadose zone, aquifers and rivers will be implemented in order to link the main physical catchment compartments. The project builds on the idea that agriculture is an upstream driver in the water business and that optimizing its practices will reduce the pressures. As a consequence, the field work will be focused on the plot scale, measuring state variables relating water, nutrients, crop development and soil quality. Sensors and information technologies will be intensively used in order to get continuous time series. Three case studies will be implemented (Portugal, Spain and Italy) dealing with vineyards and citrus species (orange, lemon and mandarine trees). Models will be used to account for water, nutrients and organic matter budgets. Soil preservation will be assessed accounting for erosion and organic matter budgets. The project will be set up following a “multi-Actor approach”. Local Actors will be involved since the beginning on the definition of scenarios and will contribute to address the socio-economic issues necessary to understand preferred practices and to learn about requirements of alternative practices with better performance in terms of water consumption and/or in terms of soil and/or water quality preservation. The consortium is formed by Universities, Laboratories and Companies, covering the disciplines relevant for managing soil and water status & quality, having the crop development as a constrain, i.e. having in mind that agricultural practices are constrained by productivity.
Network WaterWorks2015
Call 2016 JOINT CALL: Sustainable management of water resources in agriculture, forestry and freshwater aquaculture sectors

Project partner

Number Name Role Country
1 IST-ID Coordinator Portugal
2 Deimos Engenharia Partner Portugal
3 INESCTEC Partner Portugal
4 isardSAT, S.L. Partner Espagne
5 Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena Partner Espagne
6 Istituto per le Macchine Agricole e Movimento Terra - Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche Partner Italie
7 Abant Izzet Baysal University Partner Turquie