The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, a UNESCO-declared Biosphere Reserve, is an isolated mountain complex encompassing approximately 17,000 km², set apart from the Andes chain that runs through Colombia. The Sierra Nevada has the world’s highest coastal peak (5,775 m above sea level) just 42 kilometres from the Caribbean coast. The Sierra Nevada is the source of 36 basins, making it the major regional ‘water factory’ supplying 1.5 million inhabitants as well as vast farming areas in the surrounding plains used mainly for the cultivation of banana and oil palm. The main problems to be solved in these basins are: i) Declining availability of water for irrigation, ii) Declining availability and quality of water for human consumption, iii) Increasing salinization of ground water and soils, iv) Increasing incidence of floods.

This is a feasibility study on the adoption of more efficient irrigation techniques by oil palm farmers in the Sevilla basin (713 km²), one of the key basins in the Sierra Nevada. The general objective is to identify the local environment at basin scale, the limiting factors and suitable field interventions in oil palm areas to improve the water use. A preparation and implementation phase was developed including an initial baseline assessment of the basin on climate, water availability, drought hazard, soil characteristics, land use, and topography. The agronomy (e.g. cultivars) and current field practices (e.g. nutrient management and irrigation practices) of the oil palm areas were characterized, and the crop water requirements determined. In addition, costs and benefits associated to the implementation of efficient irrigation technologies such as fertigation and water harvesting were assessed. Potential locations, risks and opportunities for water harvesting were evaluated with the idea to store water in the wet season to be able to use the resource in an efficient way in the dry season. A range of GIS and satellite-based datasets (e.g. CHIRPS, MODIS-ET, MODIS-NDVI, HiHydroSoil) were used to evaluate the environmental conditions, and local data and information was provided by local partners Cenipalma and Solidaridad to generate a comprehensive assessment at basin and field scale. The expectation is that fertigation and water harvesting techniques can be adopted in the Sevilla basin, but also in other basins in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta to reduce the environmental impact of oil palm production.

The Ministry of Water and Environment in Bolivia has asked the Dutch Government for support in relation to the drought issues they face. Last week, a team consisting of team leader Otto de Keizer (Deltares) and Johannes Hunink (FutureWater) left for Bolivia. As a result of El Niño, the country is struggling with a long and extreme drought period, which in November 2016 led to an acute water shortage in the capital La Paz and other areas of the country.

The Dutch government together with the Dutch water sector founded the Dutch Risk Reduction Team (DRR-Team). With the DRR instrument the Netherlands is able to cover the entire disaster management cycle from mitigation, preparedness and response to recovery.

To address the drought problem in Bolivia, the DRR-Team has been asked to provide recommendations on drought early warning and drought information systems, both on technical aspects as well as on institutional issues. The team has held talks with the Ministry of Environment and Water, the La Paz and Potosí drinking water companies, and the municipality of La Paz. In addition, they also consulted with SENAMHI: the National Hydrometeorological Institute. The DRR-Team drew up with a team of experts of the World Bank that supports Bolivia with several necessary investments to reduce vulnerability to drought.

Cambodia is currently improving in economic standing, however the benefits of this are largely contained to urban areas. As a major contributor to GDP, ensuring the sustainability of Cambodia’s agricultural sector is highly important, especially when coupled with the increasing awareness of the dangers of climate change. Access to water for agriculture, fisheries and domestic supply is an issue, with many rural communities competing for resources. Coupled with the effects of flood and drought activity in recent years, the need for adequate and reliable water resource management in rural, agricultural areas is prominent. This project focuses on the North- Western Cambodian provinces of Oddar Meanchey (OMC) and Banteay Meanchey (BMC) and the neighbouring North-Eastern Thai provinces of Surin and Sisaket.

In order to protect rural livelihoods and maintain agricultural production, communities must be supplied with permanent and regulated water year-round. Analysis of recent flood and drought histories and their effects in the provinces are first necessary to determine the most vulnerable areas both in terms of agriculture and households. In addition, water resource assessments of supplies and demand will identify the most crucial areas to ensure supplies are increased and sustained both for crops and domestic use. Socio-economic studies will also ensure ‘cross- cutting’ issues are considered in WR planning, such as: gender, economic vulnerability and cultural factors related to WRM. Furthermore, meetings with stakeholders at multiple levels can address issues in water infrastructure, alongside assessment of the capacities of those managing monitoring systems for example. From this, future recommendations for improvements in infrastructure can be made with an awareness of the necessary knowledge capacities to ensure proper maintenance and sustainability.

Initially, an analysis of the current water resource situation in the study area will be conducted through collection of available data on water resources, flood and drought histories and socioeconomic issues in the area. Following this, areas for more detailed analysis will be established and strategies to improve WRM supporting agricultural livelihoods can be developed. FutureWater is involved in the implementation of the WEAP model, for evaluation of various water resources management strategies in the catchments under baseline and projected future conditions.

Myanmar is a country with huge water and agriculture-related challenges. However, ground data on e.g. river flows, rainfall and crop growth are only very sparsely available. This training supported by Nuffic aimed to build capacity across the water sector in Myanmar in overcoming these limitations by using Google Earth Engine, a state-of-the art tool for accessing and processing a wealth of geographical datasets. Participants from academia, higher education, and govenment agencies, attended two training sessions hosted by YTU (the main requesting organization) and implemented by FutureWater and HKV. During the intermediate period, remote support was offered to the participants via Skype, email and the dedicated Facebook page. Results of the individual assignments, which were formulated by the participants based on their personal objectives, were presented in a final symposium.

Higher educational staff was trained to achieve sustainable impact by implementing Google Earth Engine in their curricula and train a new generation of modern and well-equipped water professionals. Public sector representatives participated to obtain skills that can be directly and sustainably implemented in their respective organizations, to benefit effective and equitable water management.

The SREB is part of the Belt and Road Initiative, being a development strategy that focuses on connectivity and cooperation between Eurasian countries. Essentially, the SREB includes countries situated on the original Silk Road through Central Asia, West Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. The initiative calls for the integration of the region into a cohesive economic area through building infrastructure, increasing cultural exchanges, and broadening trade. A major part of the SREB traverses Asia’s high-altitude areas, also referred to as the Third Pole or the Asian Water Tower. In the light of the planned development for the SREB traversing the Third Pole and its immediate surroundings, the “Pan-Third Pole Environment study for a Green Silk Road (Pan-TPE)” program will be implemented.

The project will assess the state and fate of water resources in the region under following research themes:

1. Observed and projected Pan-TPE climate change
2. Impacts on the present and future Water Tower of Asia
3. The Green Silk Road and changes in water demand
4. Adaptation for green development

In irrigated agriculture options to save water tend to focus on improved irrigation techniques such as drip and sprinkler irrigation. These irrigation techniques are promoted as legitimate means of increasing water efficiency and “saving water” for other uses (such as domestic use and the environment). However, a growing body of evidence, including a key report by FAO (Perry and Steduto, 2017) shows that in most cases, water “savings” at field scale translate into an increase in water consumption at system and basin scale. Yet despite the growing and irrefutable body of evidence, false “water savings” technologies continue to be promoted, subsidized and implemented as a solution to water scarcity in agriculture.

The goal is to stop false “water savings” technologies to be promoted, subsidized and implemented. To achieve this, it is important to quantify the hydrologic impacts of any new investment or policy in the water sector. Normally, irrigation engineers and planners are trained to look at field scale efficiencies or irrigation system efficiencies at the most. Also, many of the tools used by irrigation engineers are field scale oriented (e.g. FAO AquaCrop model). The serious consequences of these actions are to worsen water scarcity, increase vulnerability to drought, and threaten food security.

There is an urgent need to develop simple and pragmatic tools that can evaluate the impact of field scale crop-water interventions at larger scales (e.g. irrigation systems and basins). Although basin scale hydrological models exist, many of these are either overly complex and unable to be used by practitioners, or not specifically designed for the upscaling from field interventions to basin scale impacts. Moreover, achieving results from the widely-used FAO models such as AquaCrop into a basin-wide impact model is time-consuming, complex and expensive. Therefore, FutureWater is developing a simple but robust tool to enhance usability and reach, transparency, transferability in data input and output. The tool is based on proven concepts of water productivity, water accounting and the appropriate water terminology, as promoted by FAO globally (FAO, 2013). Hence, the water use is separated in consumptive use, non-consumptive use, and change in storage (see Figure).

Separation of water use according to the FAO terminology.

A complete training package is developed which includes a training manual and an inventory of possible field level interventions. The training manual includes the following aspects: 1) introduce and present the real water savings tool, 2) Describe the theory underlying the tool and demonstrating some typical applications, 3) Learn how-to prepare the data required for the tool for your own area of interest, 4) Learn when real water savings occur at system and basin scale with field interventions.

The Mashhad city is the second largest city in Iran. The economic growth in the Mashhad city is strongly threatened by water shortages and unregulated groundwater extraction. The situation is critical, and the government is considering drastic infrastructural measures such as desalination and water supply from the Sea of Oman (Ministerie van Landbouw, 2018). Hence, finding cost-effective alternatives to reduce groundwater consumption in the Mashhad basin (Figure 1) is of regional interest.

The SMART-WADI project (SMART Water Decisions for Iran), carried out by a consortium of FutureWater, IHE-Delft, and local partner EWERI, focuses on farmers who irrigate their crops with groundwater. The aim is to provide up-to-date information and advice on water productivity, irrigation and farm management. The project combines the latest satellite technology for the quantification of water consumption and productivity, with high resolution flying sensor (drone) images to monitor the crop growth.

Figure 1. Mashhad basin in Iran.

Using this information in a crop model can determine the potential for improving agricultural practices and reduce groundwater consumption. This way, a higher crop yield (food production) and higher water productivity can be obtained (Figure 2). Eventually farmers receive this information in combination with recommendations regarding irrigation planning via an online portal or mobile app.

SMART-WADI is now in the phase of a feasibility project, in which the market context and technical aspects are tested. This is supported by the Partners for Water Program of RVO.nl, with co-funding from the executive project partners. Based on the first signals and the experiences of FutureWater and IHE-Delft in similar projects, it is estimated that this information service has great potential to be scaled up to other areas in Iran.

FutureWater is developing and testing a framework to predict crop yield and water productivity based on crop growth monitoring using flying sensors and remote sensing. Thanks to this innovation, farmers can timely plan field management practices (e.g. irrigation application) enhancing water productivity and reducing groundwater consumption.

Figure 2. Conceptual framework of SMART-WADI.

Twiga’ is the Swahili word for ‘giraffe’, a keen observer of the African landscape. TWIGA aims to provide actionable geo-information on weather, water, and climate in Africa through innovative combinations of new in situ sensors and satellite-based geo-data. With the foreseen new services, TWIGA expects to reach twelve million people within the four years of the project, based on sustainable business models.

Africa needs reliable geo-information to develop its human and natural resources. Sixty percent of all uncultivated arable land lies in Africa. At the same time Africa is extremely vulnerable to climate change. Unfortunately, the in situ observation networks for weather, water, and climate have been declining since the 1970s. As a result, rainfall predictions in Africa for tomorrow have the same accuracy as predictions in Europe, ten days ahead. To realize the tremendous potential of Africa while safeguarding the population against impacts of climate change, Earth observation must be enhanced and actionable geoinformation services must be developed for policy makers, businesses, and citizens. New in situ observations need to be developed that leverage the satellite information provided through GEOSS and Copernicus (Open data/information systems).

TWIGA covers the complete value chain, from sensor observation, to GEOSS data and actionable geoinformation services for the African market. The logic followed throughout is that in situ observation, combined with satellite observations and mathematical models, will result in products consisting of maps and time series of basic variables, such as atmospheric water vapour, soil moisture, or crop stage. These products are either produced within TWIGA, or are already available with the GEOSS and Copernicus information systems. These products of basic variables are then combined and processed to derive actionable geo-information, such as flash flood warnings, sowing dates, or infra-structural maintenance scheduling.

The TWIGA consortium comprises seven research organisations, nine SMEs and two government organisations. In addition it uses a network of 500 ground weather stations in Africa, providing ready-to-use technical infrastructure.

FutureWater’s main role in TWIGA is centered around the use of flying sensors to map crop conditons, flood extent, and energy fluxes, complementing and improving data from in situ sensors and satellites. Furthermore, FutureWater is involved in innovative app development.

Project description

The groundwater discharge of irrigation return flows to the Mar Menor lagoon (Murcia, SE Spain), the largest coastal lagoon in Europe, is among one of the possible causes that would explain the high levels of eutrophication (hypereutrophication) and the several algal blooms accounted in this lagoon ecosystem in the last years. Previous studies, led and/or participated by FutureWater staff (e.g. Contreras et al., 2014; Jiménez-Martínez et al., 2017) suggest that the contribution of groundwater discharges from the Quaternary aquifer to the Mar Menor would reach values much higher than the ones officially recognized.

The construction of subsurface drainage system to intersect the groundwater flows in the surroundings of the lagoon is one of the potential solutions proposed to reduce the load of polluted groundwaters that reach the Mar Menor (Figure 1). Once pumped, these waters can be again reused for irrigation after a desalination and denitrification treatment. A large network of subsurface drainage channels are being currently operated by the Arco Sur-Mar Menor Irrigator Association (Arco Sur IA).

Flows and relationship between the Campo de Cartagena Quaternaty aquifer and the Mar Menor lagoon with (left panel) and without (left panel) a subsurface drainage system.

The Arco-Sur IA has commissioned FutureWater, in collaboration with Hydrogeomodels, this project in order to evaluate the usefulness of these infrastructures, and to explore the possibilities of extending them to the rest of the Campo de Cartagena region. The use of numerical modelling to simulate the groundwater dynamics in the Quaternary aquifer, and to quantify the spatial patterns of groundwater discharge to the Mar Menor lagoon would help to demonstrate the effectiveness of these type of infrastructures, but also to evaluate the best locations and exploitation regimes possible to reduce the discharges to the Mar Menor without compromising the provision of other ecosystem services (e.g. ecological status of coastal wetlands).

The development and calibration of the hydrogeological model for the Quaternary aquifer of the Campo de Cartagena has been rested on an intense collection of all the data available in the region, and their integration with the most advanced hydrological and hydrogeological simulation techniques. This hydrogeological model is considered a key tool to support decision making, and to evaluate the potential effectiveness of different water management strategies proposed for the region (pumping batteries, drainage networks), but also for assessing the potential impacts that would emerge due to land cover and climate change scenarios.

Objective and Methods

The objective of this study is to quantify the water balance in the Campo de Cartagena, to simulate the groundwater flow regime in the Quaternary aquifer, and to evaluate the spatial pattern of groundwater discharge to the Mar Menor lagoon for average and extreme hydrological conditions, through the calibration and implementation of a hydrogeological model.

The project has been organized into four tasks (Figure 2): 1) collection and processing of input data, 2) hydrological modeling, 3) hydrogeological modeling, and 4) reporting and and outreach activities.

Methodological diagram and execution phases.

Momenteel kopen de Nederlandse waterschappen via het SAT-WATER initiatief verdampingsdata aan die gebaseerd is op optische en thermische satellietbeelden. Echter, zulke beelden zijn op bewolkte dagen niet beschikbaar, waardoor de berekening van de actuele verdamping niet optimaal uitgevoerd kan worden. Op dit moment wordt door SAT-WATER de kwaliteit van de verdampingsdata op bewolkte dagen als onvoldoende beoordeeld. Gezien de hoge bewolkingsgraad van Nederland kunnen zo substantiële gaten ontstaan in de verdampingstijdreeksen voor de bewolkte perioden. Dit is een serieus obstakel voor het gebruik van satellietgebaseerde verdampingsdata voor het operationele, tactische en strategische waterbeheer.

Het in dit project ontwikkelde product heet CoMET (Coupled Models for EvapoTranspiration). CoMET is een koppeling tussen een satellietgebaseerd verdampingsmodel (ET-Look) en een ruimtelijk gedistribueerd hydrologisch model (Spatial Processes in HYdrology – SPHY) dat bodemvochtgegevens en verdamping berekent. Het energiebalansmodel ET-Look voedt het waterbalansmodel SPHY met dynamische en actuele vegetatie parameters waardoor SPHY het bodemvocht nauwkeuriger kan schatten, en op basis van een nauwkeuriger bodemvochtgehalte kan ET-Look vervolgens zijn verdampingsschatting verbeteren. Het resultaat is een verbeterde schatting van de actuele verdamping op zowel bewolkte als onbewolkte dagen.

Interessante meerwaarde ligt verder in het feit dat, naast de actuele verdamping en verdampingstekort, ook bodemvocht dagelijks geleverd wordt. Daarnaast biedt CoMET de mogelijkheid om een 7-daagse voorspelling te geven van zowel verdamping als bodemvocht op basis van weersvoorspellingen. Dit geeft waterschappen een sterk verbeterd inzicht in de bergingsmogelijkheden per beheersgebied, en biedt ze de mogelijkheid sneller en effectiever te anticiperen op veranderingen in de waterhuishouding en zo eventuele economische of maatschappelijke schade te minimaliseren. Alle kaarten worden geleverd op 250×250 meter resolutie en met een kwantitatieve nauwkeurigheidsinschatting per pixel.

De online viewer van CoMET is hier te bekijken.

Screenshot van de viewer waarin dagelijks nieuwe kaarten van actuele verdamping worden weergegeven. Te zien is de kaart van 19 november 2017, zoals die op 16 november werd voorspeld door de gekoppelde COMET modellen.