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OBJECTIVES

In many watersheds of the Mediterranean Countries, water resources are presently fully or overcommitted. Demand for water is likely to continue increasing due to population growth as well as increased demand from in-stream users. Irrigated farms are the largest consumers of fresh water in Mediterranean Countries: either individually or as members of irrigation districts, using up to 80% of all allocated water in some regions. With the increasing water demand of other sectors and environmental constraints, water resources available for agriculture will decrease in the next decades. However maintaining or increasing the fraction of irrigated agriculture in the national food production is essential to reach or maintain food security and welfare in many countries of the World, and especially within the Mediterranean Basin. In this critical context, there is an urgent need to foster the adoption and implementation of alternative irrigation systems and management practices that will allow increased crop/water productivity.

The three concepts will be applied to achieve the following key objectives:

Objective 1. Improvement of water productivity through sustainable Irrigation practices and management (farm and irrigation scheme scales). Testing, adapting, evaluating and proposing novel/alternative irrigation practices and management tools for improving water use and irrigation efficiencies (WP1-WP2). These new alternatives will be introduced and assessed with participation of stakeholders through integration in benchmarking activities (WP3) and harmonisation process (WP4)

Objective 2. Assessment of the impact of irrigated agriculture on the regional water resources (watershed scale). By quantifying the magnitude and direction of change of key components of the watershed hydrological cycle in response to irrigation activities — and, in turn, the relationship of these components to total watershed behaviour — it is possible to clearly identify the major drivers that determine the available water resources and how they are altered by irrigation activities. Biophysical models and remote sensing data will be the main tools supporting the integrated modelling of watershed balance (WP5). Such information at the watershed scale is required for issues related to water governance (WP6).

Objective 3. Towards a new concept of water governance. The focus on institutional issues has major implications for irrigation. Water governance is developed and managed differently in every country. Levels of governance and authority vary; responsibilities and mandates are somewhat confused, particularly between management of the resource and provision of services, and between the roles of the public and private sectors. SIRRIMED will dedicate a specific work-package to integrate water governance issues in a participative approach (WP6).

Objective 4. Fostering education and training in sustainable irrigation. A relevant feature of SIRRIMED is the expected broader impacts that it will have within the educational and scientific realms. Through training of stakeholders, students and researchers in the rapidly evolving fields of irrigation technology, agro-physiology and hydrology, this project will contribute to strengthening the human resources needed to address in an integrated way increasingly complex global issues related to water and land use change in terrestrial ecosystems (WP5). Knowledge generated about current and potential future consequences of irrigated agriculture will provide sorely needed scientific documentation and tools for harmonising policy decisions related to protecting water resources and, at the same time, preserving or enhancing the food production capacity of Mediterranean Countries (WP7).

 

     
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