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The AGIR Operational Group creates a pioneering system to measure the efficiency of water and energy use in agriculture

It is the first time that a tool of this type applied to agriculture has been developed in Portugal and internationally.

10/19/2021

AGIR Operational Group final online workshop.

The AGIR Operational Group has developed an innovative assessment system that contributes to improving the efficiency of water and energy use in agriculture. More than 50 water management entities and 200,000 hectares of public irrigation could benefit from this pioneering tool.

Optimizing the use of water and energy in irrigation, reducing losses and improving efficiency, is the objective of a new diagnostic and evaluation tool developed by the AGIR Operational Group, which presented the final results of the project in an online workshop, on the National Day of Água, on October 1st, in a joint organization with APRH, the Portuguese Water Resources Association.

Video of the final AGIR workshop: https://youtu.be/wMFC4dhTUDQ

It is the first time that a tool of this kind applied to agriculture has been developed in Portugal, and internationally. In urban systems, a similar methodology has been applied for some years in the assessment of around 400 water management entities at national level.

The new matrix works as a system of traffic lights, evaluating performance indicators such as water losses due to transfers in canals and pipelines, breakdowns in electrical installations, or maintenance planning for water distribution infrastructures. This systematic diagnosis supports hydro-agricultural developments' decision-making on how, where and when to intervene to improve water distribution and the use of energy associated with pumping. The evaluation is carried out through a computational application developed by the AGIR R&D consortium.

The three hydro-agricultural developments where the pilot project took place described the benefits: «AGIR gave us tools to accurately quantify water losses and energy inefficiencies, which help us to understand where and how to improve», says Manuel Matos, technician of the Association of Beneficiaries of the Work of Vigia.

Carlos Chibeles, technician from the Association of Beneficiaries of the Odivelas Irrigation Works, pointed out some of the practical effects of AGIR: «we started to do double measurement, with remote management and physical counting on site, to detect errors and reduce apparent water losses. On the other hand, we concluded that it is necessary to replace electric motors in the pumping stations, which represent the bulk of energy consumption».

Gonçalo Sousa, on behalf of the Association of Irrigants and Beneficiaries of Vale do Sorraia (ARBVS), considered that «AGIR's great asset is the solid basis created for strategic planning of rehabilitation and modernization actions of Portuguese hydro-agricultural developments». indicating that, following the AGIR, the ARBVS already has ongoing actions to rehabilitate watering cans and canals and the remote management system.

This assessment system is an easy tool to implement and may have a regional and national impact, serving as a basis for defining national public policies in the area of ​​irrigation. It should be remembered that the system developed by AGIR has already been applied as a reference in the Water Efficiency Plan for the Algarve Region.

The challenges and opportunities of this performance evaluation system were discussed at a round table, moderated by José Manuel Gonçalves, president of the Specialized Commission on Water, Agriculture and Forests of the APRH.

Helena Alegre, director of the water and environment department at the National Civil Engineering Laboratory, said that "it is very important that the assessment system created by AGIR will be transformed into a national tool, as happened in the urban water distribution systems" .

In turn, Susana Rodrigues, director of the quality department of the Regulatory Authority for Water and Waste Services, pointed out the benefits of evaluating the performance of urban water supply systems and left some useful advice for the implementation of a similar system. in irrigation at national level.

Rita Barradas, manager of PDR2020, praised the results obtained in AGIR: "this assessment system is crucial for irrigation associations, to assess the sustainability of systems, identify priorities for investment in rehabilitation and choose the technical solutions to implement" and showed receptiveness to the approval of a future AGIR generation 2.0 application, encompassing a greater number of hydro-agricultural developments.

The president of FENAREG, José Núncio, defended that "the next step for AGIR is the need to invest in the rehabilitation of the infrastructure of hydro-agricultural developments, some of which are more than 80 years old, in monitoring equipment and in the training of technicians".

Also talking about the future, the president of COTR, ​​Gonçalo Morais Tristão, considered that «the certification of the irrigation channels, attesting to the efficient use of water and energy, will be a logical step for the future».

The AGIR project began in 2017, with a duration of 4 years, was led by FENAREG - National Federation of Irrigations and financed by PDR2020, in Operation 1.0.1 – Operational Groups. The following participated in this Operational Group: National Laboratory of Civil Engineering, University of Évora, Polytechnic Institute of Setúbal; National Institute of Agricultural and Veterinary Research and Competence Center for National Irrigation. Three hydro-agricultural development management entities participated: ABORO - Association of Beneficiaries of the Odivelas Irrigation Works; ARBVS - Association of Irrigants and Beneficiaries of Vale do Sorraia and ABOVIGIA - Association of Beneficiaries of Obra da Vigia - and three agricultural companies: Sociedade Agrícola Bico da Vela II; AGRO-VALE Longo, Lda and Mencoca Agricultura, Lda.

FENAREG

FENAREG is a portuguese, non-profit public utility association, founded in 2005, which groups entities dedicated to the management of water for irrigation, both surface and underground, with the objective of joining efforts and will in defense of their legitimate interests and in promoting sustainable development and the competitiveness of irrigation. It currently has 30 members representing more than 27 thousand irrigating farmers, which means more than 95% of the national organized irrigation.


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