INNOMED aims to develop and apply a multidisciplinary approach to quantify the physical and economic effects of alternative management options in forestry and agriculture on the local and the catchment’s water balance. The INNOMED project brings together partners from Spain (CSIC), Cyprus (CyI), Italy (POLIMI and CNR-ISAFOM), Portugal (NOVA.ID.FCT), France (CIRAD-UMR-CIRED) and Moldova (RIFC).
A holistic approach to water resources management
There is a growing interest on achieving a better understanding on the interactions between land use and climate and their effect on water resources and people’s livelihoods, with the aim of improving long-term sustainable water use. This is even more relevant in areas such as the EU Mediterranean (EUM) region, which is a major climate change hotspot due to water scarcity, concentration of activities, and reliance on climate-sensitive resources. Irrigated agriculture is the largest blue water user in the EUM, accounting for more than 50% of total water withdrawal, largely doubling the EU average. Among non-extractive water uses, forests and rainfed agriculture have the largest green-water footprint and play a fundamental role on the allocation of effective rainfall between green- and blue-water flows, determining the water availability for other uses.
INNOMED promotes a holistic approach to water resources management by: i) considering the full water cycle as manageable and the catchment scale as the most relevant management level; and ii) addressing the integrated management of land and water, with a special focus on irrigated agriculture and forests. Its main objective is to develop and test advanced modelling tools to quantify the physical and economic effects of alternative land management options in order to improve water use efficiency in both sectors and promote sustainable water management solutions.
INNOMED addresses specific scientific challenges in: i) estimating the allocation of green- and blue-water flows of different land uses and their spatial and temporal variations, at the catchment scale; ii) determining the water footprint of different management options on forests and irrigated crops, including experimental trials, field monitoring and modelling, at the field scale; iii) integrating the physical and economic flows resulting from alternative management options. An enhanced interface between scientists and stakeholders (water and forest managers and farmers) in five pilot study sites will allow: i) mapping and devising current and innovative water-use efficient land management options; ii) gathering relevant biophysical and socio-economic data needed for analysis; and iii) focusing on relevant issues for the practical implementation of IWRM in the pilot study sites and beyond.
INNOMED will provide scientific research outcomes of high standards taking into account the current biophysical and socio-economic challenges in the EUM region, and provide resilient solutions aiming at reducing the pressure for water in the agriculture and forestry sectors, while strengthening international cooperation in water research.
Addressing Integrated Water Resources Management in an innovative way
The term Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) denotes “a coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources, in order to maximize the resultant economic and social welfare”. Despite the relative success of this concept within the scientific community, few examples exist of its practical implementation. We propose to promote and apply an IWRM approach by focusing on the following topics:
A wider perception of water resources – Traditionally, water managers and decision makers have focused on just one part of the continental water cycle, i.e. on how existing surface and groundwater bodies could be managed, e.g. by designing and optimizing storage and supply infrastructure. The full land-water cycle, however, can be explicitly considered in water resources planning and management, constituting a new paradigm in which rainfall is regarded as the entry point for the governance of freshwater resources. The green-blue conceptualization of water resources is an inclusive framework for thinking and practicing IWRM. While blue water resources, i.e. water flowing or stored in rivers, lakes, reservoirs and aquifers are the support of extractive water uses such as irrigation or urban supply, the importance of green water resources, i.e. evaporation and transpiration from terrestrial ecosystems such as forests, rangeland and crops, need to be highlighted. Green-water accounts for about two thirds of total freshwater resources globally, and even a larger share in water-scarce environments such as the EUM[5,6].
The link between land and water: role of terrestrial ecosystems on the land water cycle – The link between water resources and land use goes beyond the mere conception of some land uses, such as irrigated agriculture, as extractive water users. Terrestrial ecosystems interact heavily with the land water cycle by mediating in the partition of rainfall water into green- and blue-water flows. Thus, understanding the role of land use management in the land-water cycle is essential for IWRM. The effect of land use on water resources is well known to the scientists, but it has been very seldom incorporated into water management. The need for a holistic framework towards more water-conscious land use policies is therefore eminent.
Addressing water scarcity issues in the EUM – Water resources are over-exploited to a large part in the EUM, and water is expected to become scarcer due to climate change and increasing water demand, while changes in land use exert additional stress. Recent land use change has been characterised by forest and shrub expansion in many headwater areas as a consequence of land abandonment, while new irrigated crops were developed in the plains downstream. Headwater areas generate most of the water resources that are used in-situ and downstream in the water-deficit and highly populated plains and coastal regions. Thus, actions on headwater land uses may represent an effective adaptation option on water-scarce environments. For instance, forest management options, such as thinning, can enhance groundwater infiltration and surface runoff, hence increasing the production of blue-water at the catchment scale while optimizing water productivity at the stand scale. On the other hand, irrigated agriculture is the major blue-water consumer in downstream areas of catchments, thus improving crop water productivity is thus a major objective. This may be achieved by better crop rotation planning or other management options such as controlled deficit irrigation, which has demonstrated large potential for increasing crop water productivity while having little negative or event positive effects on crop yield and quality.
1 FAO, Aquastat, 2014; and European Environmental Agency (AEA). 2 Global Water Partnership, Integrated Water Resources Management, 2000. 3 Rockström et al., Agr Water Manage 97:543-550, 2010. 4 Falkenmark and Rockström, J Water Res Pl-ASCE 132:129-132, 2006. 5 Zoumides et al., Wat Res Man 27, 2013. 6 Zoumides et al. Ecol Indic 43, 2014. 7 García-Ruiz et al., Earth Science Rev 105, 2011. 8 Hill et al., Global Planet Change 64, 2008; and Weissteiner et al., Global Planet Change 79, 2011. 9 del Campo et al., Hydrology-oriented (adaptive) silviculture in a semiarid pine plantation: How much can be modified the water cycle through forest management?, Europ J Forest Res 133, 2014. 10 Chai et al., Agron Sustain Dev 36, 2015.