PRIMA Call for Proposals: Bridging the gap between potential and actual irrigation performance in the Mediterranean

In the Mediterranean basin, water balances and water used for irrigation including irrigation performance is often lower than potential at the farm and at the water users association level. This gap is evident for average performance, but it is particularly important when the dispersion among farmers and their associations is considered. Attaining Sustainable Mediterranean irrigation requires to assess the real water balances in the area of irrigation, amount of water available for irrigation ensuring that water levels are environmentally safe for ecosystems and other needs. Furthermore, optimising irrigation performance requires to combine technological, managerial and governance innovations taking into account the availability, safety and quality of water resources, existing institutional arrangements, as well as crop agronomy planning.
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In a context of increased population and water demand, expectations of increased aridity and salinity due to climate change, and raising environmental standards, Mediterranean water balances and thus, water used for irrigation and the irrigation performance must be close to optimum. However, a wide gap extends between actual water balances and optimum irrigation performance in terms of surface water ecological flow or groundwater levels to be abstracted for irrigation, irrigation efficiency, irrigation economic efficiency, social inequalities water and soil pollution and energy for pumping. This gap concerns both individual farmers and their water users associations. Irrigation is by far the largest water consumer in the Mediterranean basin. Therefore, bridging the water balances optimal management and irrigation performance gap in all its dimensions will lead to progress in sustainable water use and water levels protection (water security and safety) in Mediterranean aquifers and rivers.

Scope

In the Mediterranean basin, water balances and water used for irrigation including irrigation performance is often lower than potential at the farm and at the water users association level. This gap is evident for average performance, but it is particularly important when the dispersion among farmers and their associations is considered. Attaining Sustainable Mediterranean irrigation requires to assess the real water balances in the area of irrigation, amount of water available for irrigation ensuring that water levels are environmentally safe for ecosystems and other needs. Furthermore, optimising irrigation performance requires to combine technological, managerial and governance innovations taking into account the availability, safety and quality of water resources, existing institutional arrangements, as well as crop agronomy planning.

Proposals need to identify representative case study areas; characterize the right water balances and availability (ensuring ecologically safe water levels), the magnitude and the dispersion of the gap in technical and economic irrigation efficiency, water and soil pollution and energy use; establish a dialogue with local stakeholders to identify the causes for low performance; develop a set of site-specific, technical, organizational and policy innovations targeting the detected bottlenecks; cooperate with local actors to pilot these innovations in the case study areas also through capacity building activities. The latter are particularly important to improve the long-term impact of the new management practices. For this purpose, proposals should develop and demonstrate suitable means to support the qualification of local professionals (e. g. water utilities, regulatory bodies, water users’ associations, and individual farmers) to ensure the right knowledge to calculate water balances, assess water availability and amount available for irrigation and ensure knowledge for optimisation of irrigation performance techniques. Wherever needed and appropriate, proposals should take into account both academic and vocational training and education activities.

Proposals should also quantify plausible gap reductions at the farm, water users association and basin levels and contribute to the sustainability of Mediterranean aquifers and rivers in qualitative and quantitative terms.

Expected impact

Proposals should contribute to implement priorities set in the PRIMA SRIA and show the clear link of how expected impacts from the projects are going to implement the expected outputs indicated in PRIMA SRIA.

The project results must contribute to PRIMA Operational Objective 1/WATER SAVING SOLUTIONS.

The project results are expected to contribute to:

  • Develop right water balances and estimate right amount of water available for irrigation ensuring water safety and security (water quality and quantity)
  • Decision support systems based on cost-effective devices and sensors for irrigation under water quality/quantity constraints
  • Water treatment technology for specific irrigation requirements (e.g., precision irrigation);
  • Improved performance indicators at the on-farm and collective irrigation levels
  • Water use converging to irrigation water requirements for optimised irrigation efficiency
  • Economic efficiency leading to high water balance protection, water productivity, similar or higher to that of alternative societal water uses
  • Attaining stable, safe water levels and ecological flows and soil salinity levels, compatible with common local crops
  • Limiting the nitrate load of irrigation return flows through improvements in fertilization, irrigation and ensuring right strict measures to fight eutrophication of water bodies
  • Combine the protection of farmers’ income with the environmental protection of Mediterranean water bodies thus contributing to the livelihoods of rural communities while preserving environment
  • Enhanced skills and capacities of local professionals in support of employability and economic empowerment, understanding water balances and real availability of water, ensuring integrated planning skills balancing agricultural activities with water availability and, in the longer term, reduced shortage of skilled labour

 

Submission deadline for Pre-proposals: 21st February 2019 (17:00h CET)

Source: PRIMA

Illustration Photo: Sprinklers in Indian Wells, California, USA (credits: Oregon Department of Agriculture / Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0))

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Adalidda's Team

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