Domingo Torres Pacheco

Irrigation Community

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Domingo Torres Pacheco

Case Study Contents

About Farm

Farm Name

Domingo Torres Pacheco
President of the Irrigation Community Torre Álamo-Brujuelo.

Year of foundation

2001

Location

Jaén, Andalusia

Farm area/size of the organisation:

1460 ha

Number of workers:

The community has 1 employee, but 100 farms are affected with their structures.

Farm main activity:

Olives

Climate and soil characteristics

Continental climate with very hot summers (40°C); 500 mm of rainfall which in recent years has dropped to 300-350mm.

The soils are clayey with subsoils affected by salinity which complicates the use of groundwater for agricultural use.

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Measure Information

Description of the measure

Organisation, constitution, construction, and start-up of an irrigation community that brings together more than 100 farms and almost 1,500 ha of olive groves.

The infrastructures consist of three sections: catchment, reservoir, and distribution. The water is collected from the Guadalquivir River 7 km from the storage point, from where it is pumped to a reservoir of 1 cubic hectometre from where it is distributed to each plot with an annual supply of 1500 m3/ha.

Objective of the measure

The fundamental objective of the constitution of an irrigation community is to facilitate access to water for farmers in a region or district.

Thanks to this legal figure it is possible to undertake infrastructure that otherwise could not be built on an individual basis.

Justification of the choice

The creation of an irrigation community is justified by legal requirements, as this association is necessary for the management, organisation, and planning of irrigation for a group of farmers.

For most of these farmers, it has meant the conversion from rainfed to irrigated land, with an impact on the productivity, profitability, and labour requirements of their farms.

Where did You get information of the measure from?

The engineers knew that it was possible to process a concession in that area. Contact was initiated with the farmers, and a preliminary project was presented to the basin planning office, which decided that an endowment for 1,450 ha could be granted. From this point onwards, three construction projects (catchment, reservoir, and distribution) were started while the concession was being requested.

Description of the situation before the measure implementation

Most of the area was formerly rainfed with low average yields and high variability between years.

Some had small groundwater concessions, but with salinity problems. To avoid duplication, these concessions have had to be regularised after integration into the irrigation community.

Stakeholders

Stakeholders involved

2 teams of engineers (SEDE, AGROLEM)
1 lawyer

Description of stakeholders’ role

They contacted the farmers, designed the projects, and handled the administrative management. In addition to managing the permits and authorisations.

Implementation phase

Materials used

  • 3 collection pumps
  • 3 vertical impulsion pumps
  • 1 pond of 1 hm³
  • 5 filtering pumps
  • 5 distribution pumps
  • 2 houses
  • Mesh filters
  • Electrical huts
  • 2 transformers
  • 7 km of 50 cm diameter pipeline
  • 90 km of distribution pipeline
  • Meters
  • Plot rings
  • Pressure regulators (3 bar, 1600 litres/hour)
  • Fertigation system (3 tanks)

Costs for the implementation

7.5 million € (2.1 subsidised for distribution)
Approximately €6,000/ha.

Utilization of subsidies

They were awarded a grant for the distribution works project worth €2.1 million.

Implementation / building

The construction, from the catchment in the river to the plot, was carried out in three projects and in three phases (catchment, reservoir, and distribution). This required the connection of 2 power lines to operate the pumps from the river and the reservoir. In addition, it was necessary to cross many plots of land belonging to other owners from whom permissions had to be requested.

Required maintenance operations

In 90 km of pipelines, there are quite a few breakdowns that require continuous repair. They have a person who works all year round on these maintenance tasks and who controls the pump starts for collection and distribution.

Recommended knowledge / skills / training / courses / education desired before starting the measure implementation:

There must be a cooperative spirit that favours the acceptance of working with other farmers, for which it is necessary to create an environment that generates trust.

Legal advice is needed to obtain the irrigation concession and infrastructure advice for the development and control of the necessary works and installations.

Impacts

Many farms were converted from rainfed to irrigated land, stabilising their annual production, and tripling their productivity, as well as increasing the value of their assets.

Each member had to assume an investment of €6.000/ha, the amortisation of which is between 3 and 4 years.

In addition, each member must pay around €500/ha per year for fertiliser, electricity, and water charges.

The community undertook major works for which a satisfactory environmental assessment was required.

Irrigation made it possible to maintain vegetation cover, as irrigation generates less competition with cultivation.

In addition, the community has allowed for rational water management and planning, which would have been more complex with 100 individual initiatives.

From the social point of view, the irrigation of a large area, affecting many farmers, has an impact on the income of the region where it is located.

The irrigated farms have a greater need for labour for the work and harvesting, making it possible to redistribute income among the local population.

As with any democratic cooperative system, conflicts can arise when it comes to decision-making. For this it is always very important to maintain a technical criterion and to be advised by external suppliers.

From a structural point of view, it is very important to maintain and control the pond to avoid leaks and damage to the structure.

Innovation

Innovation elements

The associative form itself constitutes an innovative element that facilitates the possibility of developing infrastructures for the irrigation of large areas.

It is a tool for financing, organisation, management, and control, protected by the water law, which guarantees integration in the planning of the Guadalquivir basin and a more efficient use of resources.

Key element for success

The cooperative spirit of the community members and the creation of an atmosphere of trust is very important.

Technical and legal advice is fundamental; in the case of this community, some of the members were construction professionals, which helped to reduce the cost of the works and to better control costs and quality.

Constraints

Physical constraints

The infrastructure had to cover a long distance, first 7 km from the river to the reservoir and then 15 km from the reservoir to the last irrigation point.

In addition, the steepness of the terrain, up to 140 m of slope, made it necessary to sectorise and install more pumping capacity with greater investment and energy costs.

Technological constraints

In 2002, the technology for solar power generation was not so widespread, which made it necessary to install two power lines with transformers and switchboards. This requires a shift planning that considers the electricity tariffs in order not to incur high energy costs. In the future, one of the initiatives will be to make savings in this consumption with the installation of solar panels.

Acceptance constraints

At first, the potential members had to be convinced of the opportunity to establish the irrigation community. Many were reluctant to lose control over the financing of the infrastructure.

It was particularly difficult to obtain authorisation for the plots of land through which the 7 km of catchment pipes to the reservoir had to pass.

Proposed solutions to above constraints

In many cases, negotiation work was very important to convince all the people involved. Building trust and being flexible is essential.

About physical and technical difficulties, it must be accepted that finding a solution to them sometimes requires a greater financial effort, for which it is essential to find financial support through grants or loans with preferential conditions.

Lesson learned

Farmers’ experiences

The conversion from rainfed to irrigation has generated great satisfaction among the community members, although the process has been long from the administrative and execution point of view, the result guarantees the profitability and the revaluation of their properties.

Testimonies

“The switch from rainfed to irrigated farming is essential for the sustainability of farms. Increased productivity and stabilisation of the farms guarantees the sustainability of this conversion”.

“Setting up an irrigation community is a basic tool, it is the only way to face investments that would otherwise be impossible to make on an individual basis”.

Measure sustainability

Environmental sustainability

The conversion of rainfed olive groves to irrigation is one of the most efficient conversion processes in terms of water use due to the reduced consumption per hectare compared to other crops.

This community has also followed all the hydrological and environmental planning requirements, so its sustainability is guaranteed.

Economical sustainability

The properties affected have seen their asset value increase, as well as guaranteeing their economic sustainability with higher and more stable production.

The investments undertaken are estimated at around €6,000/ha with a payback period of 3-4 years, which means that the community members have been reaping the rewards of setting up the irrigation community for years.

Transfer of the measure

Replicability conditions required

  • Areas with significant water shortages.
  • Willingness to cooperate.
  • Legal framework that makes this form of association possible.
  • Existence of a supply point.
  • Political will to facilitate these initiatives.

Additional Required Conditions for spreading the measure

This type of structure is especially recommended in regions with significant water shortages, where there is a water supply point and the characteristics of the crop make it possible to make a productive leap that justifies the development of this initiative.

To be able to undertake this initiative, there must be a legal figure that makes its constitution possible.

This figure must be integrated into the hydrological plans, as it participates in the water management of the basin where it is located.

Conclusion remarks

This form of association is particularly interesting, as it enables the development of investments for irrigation infrastructures that are beyond the capacity of the individual.

If it also involves the transition of large areas from rainfed to irrigated land, the economic, environmental, and social implications justify its development.

Future plans

Although they did not initially consider installing photovoltaic panels to generate electricity, the current technological possibilities and their high energy costs have led to consider installing them.

Open problems

As a cooperative tool, there are difficulties in decision-making, so it is important to consider the needs of all and to create an environment of trust.

Enormous efforts have been required to obtain authorisations and permits, which, together with the complexity of the necessary structures, make technical and legal advice essential for success.

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AGRIWATER project has been funded with the support from the European Commission, with the reference number 2020-1-CZ01-KA204-078212. The content of this website reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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