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Sharing water resources

Bimont reservoir © Nicolas Delphine / Irstea

There is water on Earth. However, as P. Barthelemy points out, "The Earth is actually brown, dyed blue." He indicates that despite the planet's blue colour, easily accessible fresh water is very scarce. That's why it's so important to save, preserve and evaluate the resource, now and for the future. Irstea research is currently tackling this universal and practical issue.

Published 10/02/2014

Plants, animals and humans all need water every day, to live and for their daily activities. However, these uses can degrade the quality of water and reduce the amount of drinking water. In this context, the aim is not to ban these uses but to find solutions for reconciling our needs with the sustainable management of water resources.

As one of the European leaders in environmental research, Irstea is applying its expertise and competencies to implement suitable solutions, taking into account the agricultural, urban and future uses for water.

Sharing water resources

In agricultureirrigation is necessary to guarantee economically viable production. However, solutions are under review to allow for irrigation while preserving the resource and without drawing too much groundwater. Focus on 2 innovative systems :

  • Subsurface drip irrigation, which provides each plant with exactly the amount of water it needs;
  • Using recycled waste water for risk-free irrigation.

To protect nature from pollution, the best solution is to work with nature itself. Irstea researchers are implementing ecological engineering techniques to protect the environment and invent new waste water purification systems.

What will be the state of our water resources in 20 or 30 years ? Scientists are thinking about the future effects of global climate change as well as demographic and economic changes to anticipate future issues regarding sharing water resourcesFocus on 2 forecasting projects :

  • R2D2, a vast research project on climate and anthropogenic change on the Durance basin by 2050 ;
  • Aqua 2030, a forecasting study on changes in land use and resources by 2030.

Because the resource is so scarce, our agricultural, industrial and domestic needs sometimes compete with each other. Which of these uses should we prioritise in order to avoid conflicts ? Irstea researchers are using the social sciences and participatory modelling to develop tools for dialogue.

  • Focus on Wat-a-Game, a role play exercise to represent, conceptualise, simulate and help catchment area professionals to manage water.

From 22 February to 2 March, find out more about our research and our researchers at our booth at the 2014 International Agricultural Show.