4. Explore Cooperative Water Governance
Water metering of source water with a low-cost proportional water meter (Source: M.Eichholz/BGR
Every irrigation system exists in a hydrological, socioeconomic and cultural environment. Developing solar powered irrigation may affect the interest of other water users. However, good relations to neighboring water users of a common water resource will not only prevent conflicts and competition but also bring opportunities for cooperation and mutual benefits. Regardless of the institutional setting in charge of regulating the access to water, a sustainable operation of irrigation systems requires a high degree of responsibility and compliance with rules and regulations by the farmer. In this context, self-monitoring and self-regulation on the farm and between the water users of a shared water resource may help to effectively implement resource use regulations of the responsible public authorities. Therefore, collective action of water users should be considered in the system design to enable a sustainable operation. The farmer’s knowledge and awareness of the local governance system and the limits and restrictions it sets to his irrigation project is key for its sustainability.
The process step “Explore cooperative water governance” suggests the consideration of three levels of irrigation water governance relevant for project planning:
- Individual farm level: Water abstraction from water sources and its utilization needs to be based on the framework given by the water withdrawal license and the safe yield principles (see above). This requires thorough water metering at pump outlet and at system intake and a self-monitoring discipline.
- Neighborhood level: As groundwater pumping creates a cone of depression in the local water table (see above), users in the “area of influence” of a well may be affected by the water abstraction for the envisaged irrigation system. Likewise, the water abstraction of these users influences the water availability for the envisaged project. In order to maintain a sustainable water withdrawal from the specific water source a user agreement and a self-monitoring of the water abstraction must be in place.
- Water user or farm organization level: Irrigation water users are often organized in user groups or organizations that are responsible to establish and maintain the rules and regulations for water abstraction and the operation of collective irrigation infrastructure. This organization brings obligations and monitoring requirements to be followed, but also opportunities of sharing risks in case of water scarcity.
- The user that may be affected by (or affect) the projected groundwater abstraction can be derived from the analysis of the pumping test undertaken in the preceding step.
- Based on this spatial delineation an assessment of the following aspects should be undertaken:
- Are there coordination mechanisms or further institutionalized agreements between users?
- Does the agreement reflect basic principles of sustainable water resource management? May these principles be included?
- Do all neighboring farms/users practice self-monitoring and metering of their water abstraction and utilization? Do groundwater users in the radius of influence dispose of technical means for that? Are monitoring data handled in a transparent way, through which way? (e. g. the association or authority or to the general public)
- Do user agreements incorporate a provision for a uniform and transparent adaptation of water abstraction in periods of constrained water availability or other situations (e.g. restrictions due to pollution accidents, establishment of additional points of extraction, etc.) or could this be agreed upon? Are there mechanisms of cooperation in case of droughts?
Recommendation: Collective action between water users is a very successful approach to help farmers/producers of a shared resource to reach a joint protection of the water source and the adherence to the principles of a sustainable water resource management. Agreements and actions could incorporate important aspects such as the water withdrawal quotas for each farmer, the list of seasonal crops, the utilization of water saving irrigation technologies, the approach and routine for water abstraction and utilization monitoring and the joint information in case of crisis/emergencies.
Important: Solar powered irrigation may only contribute to good water governance if the irrigation system is sustainably designed and prudently operated. This includes: system design and outlay based on the water quantities allowed and integration of water metering along the production process. Furthermore, collective user action should be informed by scientific advisory that sensitizes the users for aspects of a sustainable water resource management and provides them with information on water saving crops, irrigation technologies and cultivation methods.
- Assessment of additional farmers/users in the area of influence;
- Assessment of groundwater related rules and institutions in place, such as user agreements and self-monitoring systems;
- Assessment of mechanisms of coordination and cooperation between neighboring groundwater users;
- Sensitized farmers/users.
- Technical provisions for monitoring of water abstraction and utilization need to be incorporated into system design;
- User agreements should be proactively advertised for by advisory services.
- Farmer and Agricultural Advisor;
- Water Resource Management and Licensing Authorities;
- Farmer Organization/Water User Group.