Third water monograph | Óscar Ruíz Chicote

Water is one of the basic and essential resources for life, as well as for the maintenance of the planet's ecosystems, and it is also a strategic component of our economy.

According to the data managed by the Ministry for Ecological Transition and Demographic ChallengeThe estimated water demand in Spain for the year 2021 was in the order of 32,000 hm3/year. The main use of water is on irrigation and agricultural uses, which means approximately 80.5% of this demand, followed by urban supply, which accounts for 15.5%. This is followed by, would be industrial use.  

In the midst of a knowledge-based society, there is a lack of comprehensive information on water use, as well as a lack of from losses occurring in distribution networks due to leaks, breaks or seepage.  

In this context, aware of the strategic importance of water and the need to reinforce the response to the adverse effects of climate change, the Spanish Government presents the Strategic Project for Economic Recovery and Transformation (PERTE) Digitalisation of Irrigation. which addresses the need to undertake a complete modernisation of the water cycle in the country in order to move towards more efficient and sustainable management. of the same. To this end, this PERTE includes a set of transformative and facilitating measures that optimise the economic potential of the sector and put an end to the inefficiencies identified in the system. Many of these inefficiencies will be eliminated through the digitisation of irrigation. 

The agricultural sector is at risk due to the drought situation that we are experiencing after a half of 2023 in the that rainfall levels have been 75% lower than the average of the last ten years at this very period of time. The consequences of this water crisis for the agricultural sector affect us all directly and indirectly. We must act.  

We cannot control whenanBut we can take a step forward to improve the efficiency and management of the water resources that the sector needs through the digitalisation of irrigation. Because the availability of food for the population will depend on it. This is a challenge that we must face, and we have an exceptional opportunity to meet it with the call for PERTE aid of Digitisation of the Water Cycle for irrigation.  

Achieving digitisation of irrigation is essential. From Elliot Cloud we are committed to contributing to the current fight against drought and climate change by proposing technological solutions that help the agricultural sector to meet present and future challenges in the efficient management of water resources. Technology is a powerful tool at our disposal that we must use to make water use more efficient.  

With Elliot Water we not only cover the seven eligible digital solutions if not that we bring the added value of data processing through advanced analytics and artificial intelligence to build robust, scalable and secure solutions without losing the focus of a Digitisation with Meaning. 

Third water monograph : Rubén Barriuso

The solution contributes to the modernisation of water management not only by pursuing the modernisation of the water administration, but also of the different sectors, both urban and rural. irrigation and the industrial sector. 

For the digitisation of irrigation, Elliot Cloud has an end-to-end solution that combines hardware and software. A solution that, as is standard in Elliot Cloud, combines robustness, reliability, flexibility, transparency and use of open source tools for data ingestion with protocol agnosticism, as well as action on devices and a very important advanced analytics component. Through the use of new information technologies in the integral water cycle, water management is improved, efficiency is increased, losses in supply networks are reduced and progress is made in meeting the environmental objectives set by hydrological planning and international regulations. Elliot Water for irrigation is an advanced hardware and software solution for water management in irrigation communities, utilities and public administrations. advanced measurement infrastructure (AMI). 

Integration and interoperability in a single system

Elliot Water integrates in a single solution the different infrastructures, assets and systems that make up the irrigation operation, to cover all the operational processes, which translates into savings in operating costs and in the control of processes to guarantee an efficient and quality service. For this purpose, there is a hardware and software part based on a robust and flexible technical architecture that is supported by open source, open and transparent tools, and a functional part as a base in which specific modules are integrated to respond to the problems and needs of water management in irrigation. 

Technical architecture

Technical architecture

Functional architecture

Functional architecture

Hardware Network (AMI)

The control of water consumption in irrigation by irrigators is managed through the installation of a pulse emitter in the meter and the installation of a device called C-50, which mainly has this function. They have a lithium battery (lasting up to 10 years) and can read up to 4 meters. The sending of readings is configurable, being able to be daily, weekly or monthly, with the possibility of reading consumption by time periods. 

The C-100-IRR units are available for remote irrigation management. This equipment manages two solenoid valves, two meters and two digital or analogue inputs. It communicates wirelessly with the rest of the system and, in the same way that it responds to the orders sent for its functions, it can act as a repeater node of the communications network. The whole system is based on a 169 Mhz communications mesh with dynamic addressing, where the different members of the mesh connect to the repeater node that offers the best coverage with the least amount of hops possible. 


Network configured by gateway and repeaters

 Sub 1 GHz Network Repeater C-100-IRR-DIN:  

  • Independent reading of up to 2 counters (pulses) and up to 2 sensors (digital or analogue).  
  • 2 outputs for actuating latch type solenoid valves or relays.  
  • DC 9-24V power supply. Solar power available.  
  • 12V relay connection. DIN rail mounting.  
  • Connection to extend the number of inputs (sensors) and outputs (latch).  
  • ISM 169 communication. Communication mesh node.  
  • Range: up to 8 km (visual contact between antennas).  
  • Two levels of control: irrigator, community/manager. 
  • Sending data with hourly, daily or monthly segmentation.  
  • Irrigation programming by time or volume. Real time visualisation.  
  • Internal battery backup. 
  • Power supply voltage monitoring and power failure notification.

Sub 1 GHz network repeater NODE-4214:  

  • 4 digital inputs for connection of digital meters or sensors.  
  • 2 analogue inputs 4-20mA, 0-10V. 
  • 14 outputs for actuating latch type solenoid valves or relays.  
  • DC power supply 15-24V. Solar power available.  
  • ISM 169 communication. Communication mesh node.  
  • LTE CAT-M communication.  
  • Range: up to 8 km (in ISM communication).  
  • Sending data with hourly, daily or monthly segmentation.  
  • Irrigation programming by time or volume.  
  • Real-time display (repeater mode).  
  • Internal battery, optionally rechargeable by power supply or solar panel. 
  • Monitoring of battery voltage and external power supply and notification of power failure, low battery.

Sub 1 GHz MINI-ST-IRR 169MHz GPRS/3G/4G network gateway:  

  • Node creating the ISM mesh network.  
  • Gateway between the server and the communications network.  
  • 2 outputs for actuating latch type solenoid valves or relays. 
  • Possibility of point-to-point control loop configuration between different nodes of the network (tank control). 

Multiple irrigation solutions

Depending on the scenario, available networks or terrain orography, different solutions are available: 

  • Solution isolated reading points and of control


Mesh grid solution


Closed loop control solution


All the equipment is managed through the Elliot Cloud platform on desktop or mobile application. This platform allows the control, automation and remote control of irrigation installations from anywhere in the world, at any time of the day or night. We will be able, for example, to start or finish an irrigation operation with real-time visualisation. 


Elliot Cloud, global solution for PERTE

Elliot Water has solutions to fully or partially complement the seven digital solutions funded by the PERTE. 



Third water monograph : José María González

José Mª González holds a degree in Agricultural Engineering and a PhD in Hydraulic Engineering from the Polytechnic University of Madrid. He is the current president of the Spanish Association of Irrigation and Drainage (AERYD)This entity was created in 1985 with the aim of improving information and increasing the participation of Spanish irrigation technicians in risk management tasks. ICID (International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage).

Throughout his professional life, González has directed, carried out and participated in a multitude of projects related fundamentally to hydraulic engineering: dams, reservoirs, canals, irrigation, etc. and river engineering: protection works in watercourses or actions against floods.

Internationally, it has worked on actions and prospecting missions in various countries such as Tunisia, Mali, Croatia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Angola and Egypt, among others.

He has also been an associate lecturer at the Polytechnic University of Madrid and has been involved for many years in a large number of masters and postgraduate courses as a module director and lecturer in subjects related mainly to dam and reservoir engineering and river engineering.

He is the author of several technical publications and numerous contributions to national and international congresses and technical conferences. He is currently working as a water engineering expert at TragsatecHe has previously held the position of Water Engineering Area Manager for 8 years.

He is also a collaborating member of the Spanish National Committee for Large Dams (SPANCOLD) and a member of the Spanish Society of Dams and Reservoirs (SEPREM).

What is the role of the Spanish Association of Irrigation and Drainage (AERYD)?

AERYD is a non-profit association whose aim is to promote irrigation in Spain through collaboration between the scientific-technical, business and institutional sectors and irrigation water users.

Its mission is to generate ideas that strengthen and enhance the irrigation sector through collaboration between its agents and, in this way, contribute to the progress and welfare of society in general. Its main objectives focus on facilitating the connection and interaction of the different agents in the sector, promoting the generation and dissemination of knowledge, and promoting the capacity and experience of the sector.

What does digitalisation mean for AERYD?

For the Spanish Irrigation and Drainage Association, the digitalisation of the irrigation sector represents an opportunity to integrate the knowledge and progress developed in technological areas, providing solid tools in the management and handling of water in Spanish irrigation.

The Association's doors are open to the actors involved in the development of digitalisation in all its aspects (sensors, decision support systems, artificial intelligence, etc.) with a view to improving Spanish irrigation.

What would you say is the current state of digitalisation of the irrigation sector in Spain?

In the irrigation sector, and focusing on the Irrigation Communities, the digitalisation process is progressing in parallel with the Irrigation Modernisation plans promoted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food with the support of European funds.

Within this process, it is worth highlighting the increasing inclusion of remote control systems for hydrants, together with sophisticated equipment for managing catchments and pressurisation and pumping stations, without forgetting the existence and increasing implementation of an Agro-climatic Information System for Irrigation (SiAR) that complements the digitalisation carried out by the CCRRs in their facilities, facilitating all of this, and increasingly so, the efficient management of irrigation.

What has this digitisation been like, is it homogenous, where and why are there differences in the sector?

Digitalisation as such in the rural world, and specifically in the field of irrigation, rather than digitalisation in the strict sense, has been a very gradual introduction of technology to the end user, the farmer, which has allowed him to successfully adapt to the new.

In the early 2000s, when mobile phones were not yet "smart" and were only used to make phone calls, the adaptation period to a remote control system in a modernised irrigation area was approximately three years, until the irrigator had assimilated a way of irrigating with a control system and external operation, as well as a collective irrigation system.

Today, the adaptation of the sector to an app installed on a smartphone is almost immediate, and irrigators are also very familiar with the web environment.

Regarding the issue of homogeneity, there are currently still important areas of Spain where irrigation modernisation has not yet reached, and which, therefore, do not have the advances linked to digitalisation. The weight of irrigation communities in the different autonomous communities is also different, as is the importance given to water as a finite resource, even though this aspect is finally recognised by all farmers, managers and politicians, in short, by all stakeholders. In summary, it could be said that there are still evident differences between those irrigation communities or irrigable areas in which investments linked to modernisation have not been made and those that have been able to carry them out.

What have been the phases or milestones in the digitisation of the sector, and why have they been happening?

The process of digitalisation in the irrigation sector has been progressing as the control and management systems of pumping stations have become technologically outdated, together with the imperative need to reduce water consumption in irrigation, making it more sustainable, transforming gravity/sprinkler irrigation systems into localised irrigation systems, which are more efficient both from the point of view of water use and energy requirements (compared to sprinkler irrigation).

The obsolescence of the installations has turned out to be a key factor for those irrigation networks, built in the 20th century, to be modernised and incorporate the existing digital elements (remote control, SCADA EEBB, sensors, etc.). Furthermore, there is a growing sensitivity on the part of the farmer and also a higher technological level, which means that they are incorporating irrigation monitoring and control elements in their plots that facilitate decision making, in terms of when and with what amount of water to irrigate, depending on the crop and environmental conditions, always adapting to the availability of water.

What are the major benefits of digitisation?

Digitalisation will allow, and already allows, the optimisation of decisions and actions related to irrigation, improving the efficiency, sustainability and profitability of traditional homogeneous treatments by applying only the quantities of water, nutrients and phytosanitary products that are really necessary. In the medium term, these developments should increase the overall efficiency of irrigation production systems, reducing their impact on the environment.

Which solutions have made the biggest breakthrough for the sector?

One of the developments which, according to the farmers, has meant the greatest progress and without which they would not be able to carry out their work properly today, is the GPS device installed on their tractor, which allows them to optimise passes and avoid overlaps, which not only leads to significant savings in resources (fertilisers, fungicides, etc.) but also to a great improvement in the quality of the work to be carried out.

The introduction and increasing use of sensors that make it possible to know the water stress of plants on farms, and the integration of all this digital information with agronomic knowledge, is making it possible to arrive at the so called smart irrigationwhich is automatically answering key questions such as how much, when and where to irrigate, as well as when, how much and where to apply fertilisers.

Artificial intelligence in a combination of humidity probes, nitrate levels, etc. in plots, together with information from satellite images and predictions of environmental conditions allow irrigation to be requested at the most suitable times, so that the plant does not suffer water stress and water use is carried out at the most suitable times.

What difficulties are there for progress in this regard?

The experts on this subject agree that we are at a critical moment in terms of the digitalisation process of irrigation, since the technological development is there, but there is a lack of knowledge, training, discussion, etc.

Communications are advancing rapidly and sensors are becoming cheaper, but there is a great need for more training to introduce these technologies to technicians first, so that they can pass them on to the farmer. The ultimate goal should be for the user to see the usefulness of the technology applied to their farm.

There are still some initiatives and work to be done here, especially in the less advanced areas, in order to make the definitive leap. The existence of an intermediate entity between the technology and the end user (farmer) is key to speed up the necessary transfer of knowledge.

How can the institutions support this digitalisation and does the PERTE provide the right incentive for this digital transformation?

The main objectives of the new irrigation modernisation actions are: to reduce water consumption in agriculture, to consolidate sustainable and competitive food production and to improve energy efficiency.

The investment in irrigation modernisation of 563 million euros contemplated in the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan will be the largest public injection in this area in recent decades. To this amount must be added the contributions of the irrigation communities, which will mean a total investment of around 700 million euros. These investments must be key to consolidating progress in the sustainability, efficiency and technification of Spanish irrigation, as well as in improving the productivity and profitability of the agricultural sector.

What does AERYD foresee in the future of digitalisation of the water cycle?

AERYD believes that the different digitalisation techniques applied to agriculture offer multiple opportunities to improve its productivity and sustainability.

A revolution is expected in the coming years in this sense, with an increase in the use of sensors that allow us to know the water stress of plants on farms, and the integration of all this digital information with agronomic knowledge. The monitoring of the soil-plant-atmosphere system with sensors, the use of multispectral images and the agronomic analysis of all this information will make it possible to arrive at the so called smart irrigationwhich will automatically answer key questions such as how much, when and where to irrigate, as well as when, how much and where to apply fertilisers.

Digitalisation will enable distributed processing of information to optimise decisions and actions related to irrigation, improving the efficiency, sustainability and profitability of traditional homogeneous treatments by applying only the quantities of water, nutrients and phytosanitary products that are really necessary. In the medium term, these developments should increase the overall efficiency of irrigation production systems, reducing their impact on the environment.

Third water monograph : Eva Hita

La Rioja is an eminently rural region, covering 5,000 km2, with a strong landscape and cultural contrast between the Sierra and the Ebro valley, which gradually differentiate the large areas of La Rioja's agriculture. The agricultural activity includes not only arable land, which accounts for 30 percent of the territory, but also forests, meadows and pastures, which cover almost two thirds of the region. 

The agricultural landscape is mainly centred on the Ebro corridor, where, since the second half of the 20th century, a series of changes have taken place that have harmonised the landscape, transforming the traditional agricultural system into a modern, competitive, diversified and market-based system, adapted to the new times and needs. 

Technical advances have played a part in this, as has the influence of water on agriculture, which comes from the seven rivers that rise in the Sistema Ibérico and flow into the Ebro.   

Irrigation in Cornago

The estimated regional irrigated area is around 50,700 hectares, which represents 10 percent of the regional area, and approximately 18 percent of the Useful Agricultural Area (285,920 hectares of arable land plus meadows and pastures). 

An approximation by crops leads us to say that around 50 percent of the irrigated area is woody crops (around 23,600 hectares, of which vines account for approximately 15,110 ha); 26 percent corresponds to grain cereals (approximately 13,414 ha), and 10 percent are fruit trees (around 5,300 ha), mainly pear trees. The remainder is mainly in horticultural crops (irrigated broad beans and beans) and irrigated poplar.  

The numbers tell us, therefore, of an Autonomous Community of Agrarian La RiojaThe irrigation system is essential for the competitiveness of agriculture. It is also essential for the sustainability of agricultural activity. La Rioja is making an unprecedented commitment to irrigation by undertaking a significant number of irrigation modernisation and transformation projects. This action is possible thanks to the backing of funding from the Spanish Government and the European Union and the additional impetus of the regional government. 

Irrigation in Iregua

The Next Generation Fund opportunity

This investment is primarily leveraged by the Plan for efficiency and sustainability in irrigation of the Recovery Plan.The project, Transformation and Resilience, is co-financed by the European Union's Next Generation funds. The actions have a public contribution of up to 80 per cent of the cost of eligible expenses. 

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPA)35.75 million from the funds of the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan have been programmed to date in four irrigation modernisation projects in La Rioja. These have materialised in the signing of agreements of SEIASA with the Irrigation Communities for irrigation modernisation projects in the Najerilla river basin for the benefit of 7,453 irrigators in more than a dozen municipalities that cultivate more than 13,000 hectares. 

This support is a recognition of the decisive action of the Autonomous Community of La Rioja with the Irrigation Communities for sustainability and the digitalisation in irrigation modernisation in solid, well-argued and worked on projects between the administration and irrigators. 

In La Rioja as a whole, since 2019 the regional government has promoted ten irrigation modernisation projects on a total of 18,880 hectares of agricultural land and a planned investment of 165 million euros with financing from European funds in four of these projects; from the Rural Development Programme, the General State Budget and funds from the Autonomous Community of La Rioja. 

The Administration and the irrigation communities that have made the leap to modernisation share the vision that sustainable irrigation is key to facing the challenges of climate change in agriculture and promoting a food production model that responds to the demands of the population and contributes to the necessary quantity and quality of food supply. 

Investment in irrigation modernisation is investment in the present and future and the agri-food system.

It is a commitment to promote generational renewal, to act in the face of the demographic challenge and depopulation, in the face of climate change and in favour of maintaining the landscape and food sovereignty. It means investing in sustainable territories that are at the forefront of innovation.  

Because our agricultural policy is resolutely focused on promoting a 21st century rural environment that is competitive, profitable, innovative, digital, sustainable, egalitarian and cohesive. In this vision, modernisation of irrigation systems is one of the main axes of the agricultural policy of the Government of La Rioja with the aim of modelling water efficiency in order to make it an optimised asset at the service of competitiveness and sustainability of agricultural activity.  

Modernised irrigation improves the efficiency of irrigation water use; makes farms more productive and profitable; guarantees the availability of water on demand; and makes it easier to adapt to the evidence of climate change.; genera a revaluation of the assets of the holdings; fIt increases entrepreneurial activity and generational change; it has a lower environmental impact, reducing water consumption and diffuse nitrate pollution and achieves a better quality of life for the farmer, by incorporating new technologies and the capacity to programme all irrigation according to his needs. 

Sustainable territories

The Government of La Rioja has promoted different models of irrigation modernisation adapted to territorial needs, as exemplified by these three projects in three different areas of La Rioja. In the Sierra de La Rioja Baja, in the area around Cornago, it has promoted the modernisation of an irrigation system as a decisive element in the fight against depopulation, through the generation of opportunities for local agriculture. The project covers an area of 100 hectares of high value-added intensive crops - fruit trees, vegetables and olive groves - and benefits around 100 irrigators in the Alhama-Linares river basin, with a total budget of 2.6 million euros. 

In La Rioja Alta, in the area around San Asensio, the regional government has promoted the modernisation of irrigation to replace the current irrigation system using irrigation ditches with a piped irrigation system in the Acequia de San Asensio. This action will benefit 433 irrigators and a total surface area of 1,591 hectares. Vineyards are the majority crop in the area and the most notable feature is the young age of the members of the Irrigation Board, who are committed to a professional life option aimed at quality, competitive, profitable and sustainable viticulture. The work in the San Asensio Irrigation Community is part of the irrigation modernisation and consolidation works of general interest planned by the Ministry of Agriculture, which will be financed by the General State Budget, as part of the Irrigation Modernisation Plan, promoted by the Spanish Government, in collaboration with the Autonomous Communities.  

And in the middle-lower Iregua river valley, in La Rioja media, an irrigation area that goes all the way to the city of Logroño, we are strongly promoting the continuity of agricultural activity for an agricultural valley. The irrigation area of the lower-middle Iregua river valley includes the irrigated land of the municipalities of nine municipalities, involves nine irrigation communities and encompasses 10,518 hectares of vineyards, cereals and fruit trees. 

The Government of La Rioja has promoted the strategic project of common irrigation in the Iregua basin, with the drafting of the Iregua Irrigation Master Plan and the commissioning of the modernisation project to Tragsa, which has meant an investment of regional funds of 830,000 euros to lay the foundations for this action.  

The Iregua irrigation modernisation project is a decisive action for the present and future of the valley, a defence of water in the valley, in order to to produce with fewer resources, to increase the competitiveness of agricultural activity in the area and to improve the quality of life in rural areas.  

Currently, three out of every four hectares of crops in the Iregua valley are irrigated by blanket irrigation and only 5 % have modern irrigation systems with consumption volume control. The modernisation of irrigation would make it possible to modernise infrastructures and implement irrigation systems that allow for adequate control and management of resources and the development of efficient and automated irrigation installations.  

Undoubtedly, the commitment to irrigation modernisation in the context of European recovery promotes sustainable development of our rural environment, by guaranteeing water savings and energy efficiency in irrigation. 

We share the Spanish Government's conviction that sustainable irrigation, together with digitalisation and generational renewal, are the three pillars on which the agricultural activity model will be based in the near future. 

Irrigation increases agricultural productivity sixfold, generates four times more income for farmers and three times more employment than other crops. 

Sustainability is about optimising and conserving today's natural resources to secure tomorrow's needs.  

It is time for efficient and sustainable irrigation because it provides greater stability and guarantees for food production. It is time to bring a future to our agricultural activity thanks to the efficient and sustainable management of such a precious resource as water. in a context of climate change, increased need for water resources and reduced water availability. 

Third water monograph : Alfonso Corbalán

Lhe scarcity of water is a challenge when it comes to managing the resource, a twist in the script that has been seen for years and forces us to consider actions and improvements such as the digitalisation of irrigation, to optimise the profitability of crops with an efficient and sustainable use of water, which is fundamental for life and the creation of food.  

From Hidroconta we are working on the development of new technologies for the digitalisation of the water sectorThe latter accounts for 80% of the water available on the planet.  

The aim of the digital developments of Hidroconta is to receive the information that is being generated in a hydraulic installation in order to be able to analyse it and act accordingly, analysing the data for subsequent decision making, having notifications and process warnings, having greater operational efficiency and with the aim of achieving greater productivity and profitability. 

Hidroconta has different technologies for telemetry and remote control, equipping its equipment with the possibility of data communication, thus having a wide range of solutions for remote management of the hydraulic network. We work on innovation by incorporating state-of-the-art communications technology to water meters, manufacturing intelligent water meters, Spanish 100%.

We manufacture water meters capable of recording daily consumption data, which means going from 2 or 3 annual readings of water consumption of a meter to having around 9,000 annual readings.  

We accompany our clients in their project of digitalisation of irrigationOur strong point is our ability to adapt our own developments to the special needs of each of the challenges that we are faced with. During the more than 8 years that Hidroconta has been immersed in this field, we have been involved in several projects in the following areas digitalisation of irrigation in different parts of the world.  

In the international arena, it is worth highlighting the project carried out in Saudi Arabia to control water extraction by means of deep boreholes that irrigate an area of more than 40,000 ha through pivots of approximately 800 m in diameter.  

The main objective of the project in Saudi Arabia is to read the flow rates extracted from the boreholes and record them automatically and remotely. The essential requirements of the project are: accurate flow rate recording, permanent connection of the remote reading equipment, a complete solution in a single module, simple installation, weather resistance in extreme conditions due to the high temperature fluctuations in the desert and the effects of sandstorms and solar storms.


The two points to be resolved in the project are, on the one hand, the accurate reading of flow rates and, on the other hand, remote reading, recording of historical data and data visualisation. For flow rate reading, it was decided to use electromagnetic flowmeters of Hidroconta Hidromag in its version with separate converter and powered by 220 V AC. In order to achieve the remote reading and recording of historical data, the system was installed in the project. Demeter from Hidroconta with ending them Demeter 4H GPRS. 

The Demeter 4H is a remote management and monitoring device for hydrants and metering equipment related to water consumption and distribution. 

With the installation of autonomous Demeter GPRS terminals, it has been possible to monitor water abstractions from aquifers, with information accessible from anywhere in the world via the internet and updated in real time. 

On the other hand, at national level, Hidroconta deploys projects and supplies equipment for the digitalisation of irrigation, remote reading and remote control of consumption. 

There are several reasons why ?digitalisation is a real commitment of the irrigation communities? and has also been reflected in the PERTE of digitalisation by the Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (MITECO).

Remote reading of water meters is one of the key technologies being promoted in this programme, as it allows real-time monitoring of water consumption and improved management of water resources. 

The PERTE is a great opportunity for the irrigation sector. On the one hand, it will raise awareness of the need for efficient use of the resource and, on the other hand, it will encourage Irrigation Communities, Central Water User Boards, Groundwater User Communities, among others, to digitalise their farms.  

Digitised water meters with Iris in the Cota 400 district.


The Cota 400 Irrigation Community, located in the south of the peninsula, has already begun the digitalisation of its supply network. Motivated by the structural changes in the distribution of plots of land that have led to the installation of new individual water meters, which has multiplied the number of control points and has therefore made it more difficult to control the water supply network. of staff. The Community installs the IRIS system of Hidrocontawhich?allows the control and metering of individual meters through a system of teleprocessing.

IRIS is a communications module that incorporates into traditional water meters the capacity to communicate directly with a server that records, visualises and compares the data of the flow rates and volumes of water counted by the meter through a mobile APP or a WEB platform.  

To date, 420 units of the Iris remote management system have been installed in the Cota 400 Irrigation Community. 

In short, the digitalisation of flow recording equipment such as water meters or flowmeters is the solution to the new scenarios in the world of irrigation derived from the scarcity of water. In order to provide irrigation networks with intelligence, there are solutions that can be adapted to any scenario. Moreover, currently, the opportunity provided by the PERTE digitalisation thanks to the European Funds opens a window of opportunity to implement it. 

Third water monograph : Andrés del Campo

Irrigation is one of the fundamental pillars of the agri-food system and rural development in our country. Sustainable water management and the new technologies applied to this objective are a priority for irrigators and in FENACORE We have been fully committed to these objectives for decades.  

From the National Federation of Irrigation Communities of Spain (FENACORE) represents 700,000 irrigators and practically two million hectares, i.e. more than 80% of irrigated land. Our sector is today a benchmark, an example of modernisation throughout the country and also recognised beyond our borders. We are an essential ally in advancing towards sustainable water management.  

Spain has one of the most competitive and internationally recognised models. By now, no one doubts that the sustainable management of water resources is essential to meet food needs with maximum security and promote sustainable development.  

The very definition of sustainable development imposes two conditions on us: satisfying the food needs of the current generation and using means of production that are not aggressive towards natural resources so as not to damage the environment and guarantee the subsistence of future generations. 

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)based on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, make this very clear. And the Federación Nacional de Comunidades de Regantes de España (FENACORE) (National Federation of Irrigation Communities of Spain) is firmly committed to these 17 Goals, which can be grouped into two large blocks that are of direct relevance to us.  

The first of these, related to raising the standard of living and well-being of people, involves eliminating poverty and hunger, as well as improving health and access to water and energy for the entire growing world population. 

The second is linked to the improvement of nature and the environment, as well as mitigating the effects of climate change. 

We must not forget that, in this context, irrigation is a major activity and we must respond to the foreseeable increase in the management of the availability of resources with a sustainable managementas we have been doing for years.  

It is also essential for structuring the territory and for fixing the population in rural areas. And the environmental benefits are fundamental: it prevents soil erosion, consumes CO2 and contributes to the preservation of biodiversity. 

To cover growing food needs, it is necessary to increase the amount of water available for irrigation. And in the face of scarcity, which is aggravated in periods of drought such as the current one, it is essential to seek alternative and complementary resources to conventional ones.  

A dramatic situation

In our country, we are currently facing a very complicated time due to the drought. At the moment, rainfed crops (cereals, oilseeds, etc.) in the southern half of the peninsula are already lost, with practically no harvest. As for irrigated crops, there are basins such as the Guadalquivir, with an allocation of 700 m3/ha, which is only enough to irrigate little more than 1 in 10 hectares and is leading the sector to complete ruin. 

In the case of the Internal Basins of Catalonia, and in areas of the Ebro, the situation is equally disastrous, while the Guadiana and Segura basins will also face significant restrictions on irrigation. In the rest of the basins, the context is worsening and all this will be aggravated by the forecast of no rain in the coming weeks. 

In this regard, irrigated farmers are calling for both short-term measures to help alleviate the serious impacts of drought on crops, and structural measures to prevent and make the sector more resilient to drought. 

At FENACORE we believe that, now more than ever, we need a State Pact for Water, as one of the structural measures necessary to fight against drought and avoid the rise in food prices, which continue to reach record highs.

But we also propose a series of urgent and necessary actions, within the framework of a coordinated action plan that the government must implement to contain prices and guarantee food production.  

It is important to stress that irrigation is the engine that feeds the world and, if the government continues to look the other way, the viability of a large number of crops will be seriously jeopardised by the generalised lack of water. The losses will be historic for farmers and the public will suffer a price hike unprecedented in recent years.  

Fenacore represents a vital sector for the economy, employment and rural development. We guarantee a secure supply and we are a benchmark, thanks to a great effort and an investment of millions of euros in modernisation over the last decades.  

The challenge of moving towards sustainable and efficient management of our most precious resource, the basis for life, food and the sustainability of the planet, unites us all. We have amply demonstrated that we are an example and an essential ally.  

For all these reasons, and thanks to our performance in water management, we are positioned as a major player. And we need to make our voice heard. Not only because we have proven a successful model, but also because we are talking about an ethical imperative that binds us and commits us to the next generations and to our future as a country.  

Third water monograph : Rafael Prieto

Rafael Prieto, CEO and founder of H2 Solar EnergyHe has experience in finance, commercialisation, marketing and strategic management in the management of business units in Europe and LATAM, as well as in global marketing in the private sector.  

He currently directs H2 Solar Energya company focused on the development of renewable energy solutions for self-consumption, fundamentally aimed at the agricultural irrigation sector through the design, construction and operation of floating photovoltaic plants on the water sheets of irrigation ponds. 

What does digitisation mean for Rafael Prieto?

The digitisation of a sector is basically the introduction of digital technology into its processes and activities to improve efficiency and productivity. 

By digitising an industry, companies and individuals can work more efficiently, compete better and offer better services to their customers. This means changing the way we work, how we organise ourselves and how we do business.  

Digitalisation involves the adoption of tools such as data analytics, artificial intelligence, the internet of things, the cloud and advanced communication networks. Undertaking this activity in a sector also entails changes in the way of working, internal organisation, the business model, and collaboration between companies and their partners. 

The process of digitalisation is happening in almost all sectors, such as industry, agriculture, education, health, transport and financial services, creating new opportunities and challenges for all. 

To what extent do you think a difference needs to be made, and what does this sector need in terms of digitalisation and energy and water efficiency?

Digitalisation and energy and water efficiency are critical aspects for the transition of the water sector to a so-called 4.0 sector, as they can help address challenges such as climate change, increasing water demand and the preservation of natural resources. 

Some key areas where digitisation and efficiency can make a difference in the water sector could be the real-time monitoring and control. The implementation of sensors and real-time monitoring systems allows the collection of accurate information on water use and water quality, both in its treatment, distribution, purification and reuse processes. This can help companies and authorities to identify potential problems, optimise water use and make data-driven decisions.  

Another key issue is the reduction of Non Revenue Water. Digitalisation can help detect leaks, reduce fraud and prevent water losses in distribution systems. The use of technologies such as data analytics and artificial intelligence can improve efficiency in identifying and repairing leaks. 

Digitalisation in the water sector can also improve energy efficiency in the operation of water treatment and pumping plants. Optimising processes and using more efficient technologies can reduce energy consumption and consequently reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

On the other hand, in terms of demand management, digitalisation allows better control and management of water demand, whether in the residential, industrial or agricultural sphere. The adoption of smart technologies and consumer awareness of responsible water use can help reduce consumption and ensure the availability of water resources for future generations. The creation of digital twins in treatment plants (potabilisation or purification) and in industrial or agricultural facilities will enable significant progress in water resource management. 

The incorporation of renewable energy sources in water sector operations, such as solar energy, in particular floating photovoltaic, taking advantage of the large sheets of water in reservoirs and irrigation ponds, or wind energy aimed at reducing the high energy costs of desalination plants, can increase sustainability and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. In the water sector, let us not forget the generation of biogas, neutral in terms of CO2emissions from water treatment processes and their incorporation into electricity and heat generation processes.  

In short, since H2 Solar EnergyWe believe that digitisation and energy efficiency and water are essential to ensure sustainable and responsible use of water resources. The water sector must adopt these technologies and approaches to meet current and future challenges. 

With your vast experience in this sector, how do you see the current state of water digitalisation in Spain (especially in irrigation)?

Spain has been making progress in the digitisation of the water sector, including irrigation, in recent years. The combination of a growing awareness of the importance of water efficiency and the availability of digital technologies has driven the adoption of innovative solutions. Some developments in water digitalisation in the field of irrigation in Spain include: 

  • Precision agriculture: Technologies such as soil moisture sensors, weather stations and remote sensing systems have been implemented to monitor environmental conditions and plant needs. This allows farmers to make irrigation decisions and improve water use efficiency. 
  • Smart irrigation systems: The adoption of sectorised, automated and remotely controlled irrigation systems has increased in Spain. These systems allow for more efficient and precise irrigation, adapting to soil conditions and plant needs and minimising leakage, thus reducing water wastage. 
  • Use of data and analysis: The collection and analysis of data on water consumption, crop health and weather conditions has become more common in Spain. This helps farmers to optimise their irrigation practices. 
  • Collaboration and coordination: Digitalisation has also facilitated collaboration and coordination between farmers, irrigation communities, businesses and government agencies. Digital platforms and mobile applications enable the sharing of information, knowledge and best practices in water management. 

Despite these advances, there is still room for improvement in the digitalisation of water in Spain, especially in irrigation.

Lack of investment, resistance to change and regulatory barriers can slow down the process. However, growing awareness of the importance of water efficiency and increased government support, such as EU funds, can boost the uptake of digital technologies and solutions in the water and irrigation sector in Spain. 

What has this digitisation been like, is it homogenous, where and why are there differences in the sector?

At H2 Solar Energy, we are aware that digitalisation in the water sector varies significantly depending on a number of factors, such as the level of economic development, existing infrastructure, government policies, awareness and education, geographic and climatic conditions. These differences influence the adoption and application of digital technologies in the water sector globally. It is crucial to recognise and address these differences to ensure that all countries and regions benefit from the opportunities and advantages offered by digitalisation in this sector. 

Some of the most advanced countries in the digitisation of the water sector are, firstly, Israel, with its innovations in efficient irrigation, desalination and wastewater reuse technologies, is a world leader in water management and conservation. Digitisation and the adoption of cutting-edge technologies have been instrumental in addressing water challenges in this arid country. 

In the Netherlands, known for its advanced water management systems and flood control efforts, digital technologies have been adopted in areas such as water monitoring, treatment and distribution. Government policies and public-private partnerships have driven innovation in the water sector. 

Finally, I would like to highlight Singapore, which has made significant progress in the digitisation of the water sector through initiatives such as smart water management, floating photovoltaic plants and wastewater reuse. Investment in research and development and the promotion of technological solutions have been key to Singapore's success in water management. 

What have been the phases or milestones in the digitisation of the sector, and why have they been happening?

It started by involving the automation of processes and the adoption of information systems to manage water-related data. Implementing automated control systems and the use of data management software to monitor and control water systems. 

With the advancement of technology and the advent of sensors, the water sector began to adopt remote and real-time monitoring systems to measure parameters such as flow, water quality and pressure in distribution networks. Telemetry enabled the transmission of data from sensors to control stations, which improved efficiency in decision making and water resource management. 

Closer to home, the adoption of IoT technologies and improved connectivity enabled greater integration and communication between devices and systems in the water sector. This facilitated real-time data collection, analysis and sharing, leading to more efficient and proactive water management. 

With the increasing availability of data and the evolution of data analytics and artificial intelligence technologies, the water sector has started to use these tools to improve decision making, event prediction and process optimisation. AI and machine learning enable the development of 'digital twins' to predict water demand, detect leaks, and improve water quality and water use efficiency. 

At H2 Solar Energy we believe that the digitisation of the water sector will continue to evolve in the future, as new technologies and approaches emerge to improve the management and conservation of water resources. 

What are the major benefits of digitisation?

Among the most significant benefits of digitisation are water and energy efficiency.

Digital technologies make it possible to optimise water and energy use through real-time monitoring and more precise control of irrigation, treatment and distribution systems. 

Leak detection and prevention through real-time monitoring and the implementation of sensors makes it possible to detect and prevent leaks in water distribution networks, reducing losses and improving system efficiency. 

Improved water quality. Digitalisation facilitates the monitoring of water quality and enables real-time decisions on treatment and distribution, ensuring a safe and quality water supply for consumers. 

The adoption of digital technologies can lead to a reduction in operation and maintenance costs, as it allows for more efficient management and optimisation of processes. In turn, resilience to climate change, where digitalisation helps to address challenges such as drought, flooding and water scarcity by enabling better planning, prediction and management of water resources. 

Finally, the availability of real-time data and data analysis allows informed and evidence-based decisions to be made, which improves water management and user satisfaction. 

What difficulties are there for progress in this regard?

There are also challenges on the road to further digitalisation in the water sector. At H2 Solar Energy, we know that addressing the following challenges will be crucial to ensure continued progress in the digitisation of the water sector and to maximise the benefits that these technologies can offer. 

Implementing digital technologies can require significant investment in infrastructure and equipment, which can be a challenge, especially for developing countries or regions with limited resources. 

The digital divide and inequalities in access to digital technologies can hinder the adoption and uptake of digital solutions in the water sector, especially in rural or disadvantaged areas. 

Successful implementation of digital technologies requires adequate training and education to ensure that employees and end-users understand and use digital solutions correctly. In addition, lack of interoperability between different systems and devices can hinder the adoption of digital technologies and limit the ability of organisations to share data and collaborate. 

How can institutions support this digitisation, and do you think they could do better?

Institutions, both governmental and non-governmental, can play a key role in promoting and supporting the digitisation of the water sector. Some ways in which institutions can support this process are policies and regulations that encourage the adoption of digital technologies in the water sector, including tax incentives, funding and subsidy programmes for research and development projects. 

We must invest in improving and modernising water infrastructure, but also in telecommunications, especially in rural areas, and renewable energy. As well as in research and development, encouraging collaboration between academia, industry and government agencies. As well as collaboration and cooperation between different actors in the water sector, including end-users, utilities, non-governmental organisations and private companies, to share knowledge and best practices in digitisation. 

What do you foresee in the future of digitalisation of the water cycle?

We are likely to see further development and deployment of advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud computing and the Internet of Things. These technologies will enable more efficient and sustainable management of water resources, as well as greater resilience to climate change and other global challenges. Furthermore, H2 Solar Energy expects digitalisation to foster transparency and end-user participation in water management, allowing for greater awareness and responsibility in the use of water resources. 

Third water monograph : Teresa Maestro

Since 2018, the Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (MITECO) has been promoting environmental sustainability through the PERTE on digitisation of irrigation to address Spain's demographic challenges. The creation of the MITECO reflects the importance that the Spanish government attaches to environmental protection and the fight against climate change, as well as the challenges related to depopulation and demographic distribution in the country. 

This Ministry is promoting the Strategic Projects for the Economic Recovery and Transformation (PERTE) which aim to boost the country's economic recovery and promote the transition to a sustainable and environmentally friendly model.  

First of all, what is the main objective pursued by the Sub-Directorate General for Water Protection and Risk Management?

The main objective of our Sub-Directorate is the protection of water, both in terms of quantity and quality. For this reason, measures are coordinated in relation to the surveillance, monitoring and control of the state of surface and groundwater bodies, hydrological information, ecological flows, river restoration, flood risk management. It also promotes measures to combat and control point and diffuse pollution in coordination with other competent administrations and manages authorisations for discharges into the Public Hydraulic Domain that fall under the Ministry's jurisdiction.  

How would you define the current state of irrigation in Spain?

Irrigation is one of the pillars of rural development, contributing to food security. Currently, irrigation management is coordinated by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, integrating intelligent, sustainable and inclusive management.  

Although the Spanish irrigation sector is highly technified, there is still much room for improvement and an increase in the digitalisation of the sector will contribute to the implementation of modernisation strategies that will enable the transition towards a more intelligent, precise and sustainable agriculture that optimises production processes, collaborating in the implementation of what is known as Agriculture 4.0.  

What measures are being taken by the Subdirectorate-General for Water Protection and Risk Management to ensure sustainability and energy efficiency in the digitisation of irrigation? 

The star measure being taken by the Sub-Directorate is the promotion of the PERTE de Digitisation of the water cycleThe call for aid for the development of digitisation projects for irrigation water user communities is to be published in the framework of this call, which is expected to be published in July 2023. 

What are the main guidelines of the PERTE for the digitisation of irrigation?

The grants, which will be awarded on a competitive basis, will go to projects that contribute to achieving one or more of the following objectives:

  • Improvements in the knowledge of water uses in irrigation and transparency in administrative water management. 
  • Improved knowledge of water losses on irrigated farms.
  • Improvements in water use on irrigated farms. 
  • Improvements in the use of fertilisers and pesticides. 
  • Improvements in energy efficiency on irrigated farms and, in general, in their productivity. 

Water user communities whose main use is irrigation, constituted in accordance with the Texto Refundido de la Ley de Aguas: irrigation communities, groundwater user communities, general communities, central user boards or groups of the above that meet all the requirements set out in the regulatory bases and in the call for applications, may apply for aid. 

Irrigation digitisation projects shall be composed of one or more digital components from the following catalogue, some of which shall be mandatory: 

  • Digital solution A. Creation of an e-processing application and a web portal. 
  • Digital solution B. Creation of inventories and web services of geographic information systems and cadastral identification of the agricultural parcel and irrigation network.
  • Digital solution C. Technological improvements and digitalisation of the systems for monitoring the volume of water actually used.
  • Digital solution D. Soil water content monitoring for irrigation optimisation.
  • Digital solution E. Monitoring of water quality in irrigation returns to surface watercourses.
  • Digital solution F. Monitoring of leachate to groundwater.
  • Digital solution G. Support for remote control, monitoring and support for fertigation and improved energy efficiency. 

In addition, there will be appropriation reserves for projects which are supplied from water bodies with a status worse than good according to the river basin management plans in force. 

What challenges do you see in the implementation of these guidelines?

This aid will facilitate compliance with current water legislation (measuring the volume of water collected and returned to the Public Water Domain). This contributes to water protection. But these aids have also been designed to be attractive to user communities with many other actions that can contribute to improving water management.  

The main challenge is for irrigation water user communities to apply for this aid, because the main objective is to be able to share the budget and to benefit both irrigated agriculture and water protection. 

What are the advantages of the PERTE for the digitalisation of irrigation? 

The PERTE for the digitisation of irrigation represents an important boost to the digitisation of irrigation water user communities.

Data acquisition and management at user community level will be promoted to aid decision-making. This will encourage more resource-efficient agriculture, both in terms of water use and fertilisers and pesticides, which will have a positive impact on farm profitability and the environment. Aid may be granted up to 100% of expenditure up to certain limits, on condition that the installations are maintained for 5 years after the end of the project. 

Do you therefore consider that data management can contribute to the modernisation of irrigation and why?

Data management is essential, as it provides accurate information on the needs of the plant in order to make farming smarter and more innovative. 

In addition, monitoring water use can help to achieve greater efficiency in water use, in order to achieve better yields from the scarce resources at our disposal. 

Finally, could you highlight any specific project that has been carried out in recent years that has contributed to the improvement of irrigation systems and, therefore, to the optimisation of water?

In our sub-directorate, projects within the framework of the PERTE for the digitalisation of irrigation will be the first to contribute to the improvement of irrigation systems. 

Third water monograph : Isabel Bombal

The future of the agri-food sector in our country depends on modern and sustainable irrigation. The irrigation is undoubtedly the ?jewel in the crown? of Spanish agriculture, as it is at the forefront in innovation, sustainability, digitalisation and the use of non-conventional waters, as well as for its capacity to generate added value and employment. But, above all, it is essential for supplying citizens with healthy, safe and quality food at reasonable prices.   

So far in the 21st century, the amount of Spanish agricultural production has increased by 36 % thanks, in particular, to the boost given to irrigation, which in Spain accounts for around 23 % of the cultivated area, with 3.8 million hectares, and generates two thirds of the value of vegetable production. It also manages to increase agricultural productivity sixfold, increase farmers' incomes by up to four times and triple employment rates in the sector. 

This already established potential becomes even more relevant in the current situation, where issues such as depopulation and, above all, climate change, will mark the future of the coming years. Rainfall is becoming increasingly erratic and even scarce, which will lead to a reduction of between 12 and 40 percent of available water resources by the end of the century.

This scenario makes it necessary to act and modernise water management in agriculture in order to achieve adequate and efficient use in the face of the unquestionable lack of availability in the near future.

To this end, the reuse and treatment of water, the use of renewable energies, the digitalisation and irrigation technology are the best instruments to address the situation. Spain is an international leader in the development of these issues and even exports some of its working structures. 

In a context of a global food security crisis that is partly due to climate change, efficient and sustainable irrigation is the major guarantor of food production.

Moreover, in the specific case of Spain, with more than half of the irrigated area being localised, irrigation plays an essential role in the fight against depopulation. Therefore, the promotion of sustainable irrigation is in line with the European policies framed in the Green Pact and on the strategies that most affect agriculture, such as ?From farm to table? y ?Biodiversity?. In order to achieve these objectives, it is necessary to promote a series of investments, which our country is already carrying out. 

The road to sustainable irrigation

Irrigation must be sustainable from three points of view: economic, social and environmental. In this context, from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food we are committed to sustainable irrigation to guarantee the efficient use of water, energy and other inputs (fertilisers, phytosanitary products, etc.), thus minimising the impact on natural resources. 

To this end, the Government has planned an investment of 2,130 million euros for the period 2021-2027; this is the largest economic volume of the current century, which will be allocated to sustainable irrigation actions, tripling the average annual volume of investment in recent years. Included in this disbursement is the ?Plan for the improvement of efficiency and sustainability in irrigation?This has been allocated more than half of the budget of the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan (PRTR) managed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (component no. 3). This is 563 million euros of public investment that will be supplemented by contributions from the irrigation communities to exceed 700 million euros, a figure that will be used to implement more than 80 actions. It is also planned to increase this volume of investment with additional funds from the recovery plan linked to the PERTE Agroalimentario.  

In the execution of irrigation works, the General State Administration is limited to areas declared to be of general interest by national regulations. For these funds earmarked for ?Plan for the improvement of efficiency and sustainability in irrigation.? in the framework of the PRTRThe infrastructures have been selected from among those presented by the Autonomous Communities. The actions proposed by the latter have been classified into different groups, according to the predominant type of modernisation: use of non-conventional water (regenerated or desalinated instead of surface or groundwater), substitution of fossil energy sources by renewable energies (especially photovoltaic), use of pumping by natural level or level ponds to achieve energy and water efficiency, commitment to new technologies and digitalisation, modernisation with renewable energies through electrical components and traditional modernisation. 

In addition, this ministry will carry out investments co-financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and programmed in the framework of the new Common Agricultural Policy 2023-2027, contributing to the specific objective of the CAP Strategic Plan (CSAP) of ?promote sustainable development and the efficient management of natural resources such as water, soil and air?. Within the framework of this CAP strategic plan, the ministry is expected to implement additional irrigation modernisation infrastructures.  

With regard to the type of investments, it should be noted that we are also executing the ordinary investments in irrigation transformation financed by the ministry within the General State Budget, which amount to 419 million euros, as well as those entrusted to the Sociedad Estatal de Infraestructuras Agrarias (SEIASA), which amount to almost 500 million euros, within the classic agreement that the ministry has with this state trading company and which go beyond the funds linked to the recovery, transformation and resilience plan.  

Thanks to all these funds, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food intends to modernise more than 200,000 hectares of irrigated land, as a first modernisation, and to act on another 500,000 hectares already modernised in the past, but requiring improvements, applying the latest and most modern technologies (second and third modernisations). These actions will guarantee water savings of at least 10 % compared to the current situation, with a more efficient use of energy. All this endorses the political and economic commitment of the Spanish Government to achieve the main purpose of the programme: a sustainable irrigation system. 

Other innovation and development actions for the agri-food sector

However, the actions of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in the field of irrigation cover more areas. One of the most important of these is support for entrepreneurship and the development of new business models within the agri-food sector and the rural environment, as many of its companies act as a catalyst in the field of irrigation thanks to their knowledge and experience.  

It is also worth highlighting the strength of the agrotech sector and of Spanish SMEs and startups, as many of them are dedicated not only to providing solutions to the challenges facing irrigation in our country, but also to generating added value and economic activity in their own right. In fact, the ministry continues to work on the Agroinnpulso line to favour access to credit for agri-food SMEs in the promotion and consolidation of their technology-based business models. In this respect, the recently approved Startups Act offers advantages and opportunities for these emerging companies, as it takes into account the differentiated reality of the rural environment. 

On the other hand, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is going to launch over the next few months a Digital Innovation Hub. This is a digital innovation centre dedicated to the agri-food sector, located in San Fernando de Henares (Madrid), whose activity will initially address issues related to irrigation technology and water efficiency. In addition, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is immersed in the development of agri-food sector data spaces, in collaboration with the Secretary of State for Digitalisation and Artificial Intelligence of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation. Its implementation will make it possible to securely share relevant information for farmers and irrigators throughout Spain, make innovative decisions based on Big Data and, at the same time, expand the scope of application of the SIEX system and the agro-climatic information system for irrigators (SiAR). 

In order to achieve these objectives, training and skills acquisition in this area is essential. Accordingly, the ministry has developed several initiatives in the field of learning, counselling and skills acquisition. One of these measures is the Centre for Digital Competences, whose activity started in 2021 with the collaboration of the University of Cordoba and the Polytechnic University of Madrid. Its task is to provide access to specialised training through free courses related to the digital transformation of the agri-food sector. Since the beginning of this initiative, 40 places have been offered each year in a course dedicated precisely to precision irrigation and efficient water management. Some of its topics are extremely relevant, such as the handling of climate data and the calculation of needs, the application of artificial intelligence for the prediction of water demand and irrigation management, the use of environmental and crop sensors or the technology of pressurised irrigation units for uniform applications. 

At the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food we work with the conviction that modern irrigation contributes to a better future.

Sustainable irrigation is the basis for the future of agricultural production in our country, through efficient and precision systems that save water and incorporate alternative energies.  

In this scenario, the Spanish Government will continue to be committed to more efficient, digital and innovative irrigation systems that incorporate the best available techniques and technologies, that allow them to adapt to climate change, that contribute to reducing the consumption of inputs in these production systems, and that help to fix the population and generate wealth in rural areas.   

Third water monograph : Patricia Terrero

On the other hand, world population growth will require a doubling of food production by 2050, according to the United Nations, with agriculture being the world's largest consumer of water resources (70%). 

In this situation of water scarcity, it is necessary to search for other water resources, such as the so-called "non-conventional" ones (desalination and reuse), in order to meet the growing demands of the population and food production. 

While the use of desalinated water for agriculture is practically irrelevant worldwide, representing no more than 2% of total uses, Spain is a rarity in this respect, being the country with the highest use for this application, with values of more than 21%. 

In Spain, the structural water deficit has led farmers in eastern Spain to rely on desalination as part of their water resources, integrating surface water from water transfers, groundwater, reused water and desalinated water (brackish and seawater), thus obtaining a reasonable price thanks to the mixture of all these inputs. In addition, the high returns on investment in greenhouse crops, which are highly technified with off-season products, make the cost of desalinated water affordable within the production costs for this sector of high quality products. It should also be noted that it has been demonstrated (in research projects such as the LIFE Deseacropof Sacyr Water) that the use of desalinated water for agriculture increases productivity and product quality.  

Similarly, the reuse of water resources makes it possible to reuse water once it has been used for municipal, industrial or agricultural purposes. In order to be able to offer this second use to water, it is necessary to apply an additional treatment to the conventional purification treatment (known as tertiary treatment), which can be more or less complex depending on the quality of the purified water and the use for which it is going to be used. 

Re-use allows for a more sustainable water managementIt increases available resources, reduces the negative effect of wastewater discharge into water bodies and reduces pressure on surface and groundwater resources, and is even more positive when carried out in water-stressed coastal areas as it releases flows that would otherwise be lost to the sea. 

In order to incorporate this resource into water planning, several important aspects must be taken into account; the applicable legal framework, the reduction or elimination of health risks through regulation and best practices and technologies, the price must be competitive including transport to the end user, and there must be a conscious acceptance by the end users through adequate communication. 

It should be noted that Spain is the 5th country in the world and the first in Europe in terms of installed desalination capacity, and is also the European country with the greatest wastewater reuse capacity, which means that we have a great deal of technological experience and experience in the application of these resources to agriculture. 

We should mention that in 2020 the European Union published a new regulation on the reuse of treated water for agriculture, which comes into force in June and which will require some improvements in some facilities, especially in terms of disinfection. 

As a recent development, on 11 May 2023, the Spanish government, through the Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (MITECO) published a press release on a new Royal Decree that was published the following day on new drought measures, summarised as follows: 

  • 2.2 billion in total.
  • Tax and fee exemptions for drought-affected farmers are included.
  • The water law is amended to increase the use of reclaimed water from the current 400 Hm3/year to 1,000 Hm3/year by 2027. 
  • Investments in decarbonisation (photovoltaic plants) are included.
  • The construction of new desalination plants (Tordera II, Costa del Sol and Levante Almeriense) is accelerated.
  • Major investments are made in new large tertiary treatment plants such as Rincón de León and Monte Orgegia in Alicante.

In addition, the extensions of the two largest desalination plants in Spain and Europe, Águilas and Torrevieja, were already approved and will probably be put out to tender this year, as well as the publication of a new PERTE for the digitalisation of the water sector for agriculture. Likewise, some regions such as Murcia or the Valencian Community have announced additional tax reductions for desalinated water for agriculture. 

All these achievements in technology and water supply through non-conventional resources would not be possible without the development of innovation in our companies, administrations and research centres, also world leaders in the water sector.

Innovation is an essential tool in the development of these technologies: new trends in water innovation are always oriented towards increasing sustainability, such as the recovery of valuable components from wastewater or brine (e.g., the recovery of wastewater or brine).brine mining), the circular economy, increased efficiency and the use of renewable energies and digital transformation. 

In this sense, the SOS-AGUA-XXI project, "Sustainability, Water and Agriculture in the 21st century", is an example of the development of technologies for the future of agriculture, including aspects of water quality, digital transformation and nutrient recovery, etc. 


The project SOS-WATER-XXI is a major research project with a budget of EUR 6 million funded by the European Commission. Centre for Technological Development and Innovation (CDTI) as part of the Missions 2021 call for proposals with the European Next Generation funds, with the aim of developing 21st century agriculture. The project will run from 2021 to 2024 and is being developed by a consortium made up of the companies Sacyr Agua, Valoriza Servicios Ambientales, Regenera, Bosonit, Tepro, Fora forest technologies, Aeromedia and Aquadvise and a group of universities and research centres (University of Alicante, University of Alcalá de Henares, Polytechnic University of Cartagena and the Association for Research and Industrial Cooperation of Andalusia (AICIA)).  

The general objective of the SOS-AGUA-XXI project is to research technological solutions that, taking sustainability and energy efficiency of the proposed processes as a maximum exponent, allow the development of strategies for the efficient management and treatment of water resources for the agricultural sector.  

Development of agriculture in the 21st century (35 tasks, distributed in six lines of research) 

  1. Digitalisation and the incorporation of new technologies in 21st century agriculture. 
  2. Improvements in water quality and the use of non-conventional resources for agricultural irrigation (among others, detection and treatment of compounds of emerging concern in reused water, detection and reduction of boron in desalinated water, new disinfection systems, search for crops more resistant to salinity, use of aerial and underwater drones). 
  3. Recovery of nutrients and compounds of interest from different types of waters (recovery of nutrients from different types of waters with microalgae, recovery of salts from brines (brine mining) and waste water, production of green hydrogen from reclaimed water, etc.). 
  4. Integrated economic and environmental studies (water balances in the study area, economics and environmental aspects of the proposed measures and how they affect the project, energy efficiency, calculation of water and CO2 and socio-economic impact) 

The importance of digital transformation in this project should be emphasised. The digitalisation line includes tasks such as: 

  • Predictive water and energy modelling.
  • Predictive models of extreme weather events and how they affect infrastructures.
  • Design of irrigation models based on new technologies.
  • Use of aerial and underwater drones.
  • Digital cufflinks.
  • As well as application of different models to the different tasks of the project (microalgae, compounds of emerging concern, etc.).  

In conclusion, the SOS-WATER project aims to develop 21st century agriculture. Efficient in the use of water and energy resources in a sustainable and resilient way, and the keys that underpin the project are: 

  • The promotion of the use of non-conventional resources (desalination and reuse).
  • Digitisation and incorporation of new technologies.
  • Increasing water quality and by-product recovery by promoting the circular economy.
  • Promote economically, socially and environmentally sustainable solutions.  

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