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WATER CHANNELS - The traditional irrigation culture using water channels as model for sustainable water management

English title WATER CHANNELS - The traditional irrigation culture using water channels as model for sustainable water management
Applicant Rodewald Raimund
Number 125900
Funding scheme NRP 61 Sustainable Water Management
Research institution Stiftung Landschaftsschutz Schweiz
Institution of higher education Non-profit organisations (libraries, museums, foundations) and administration - NPO
Main discipline Political science
Start/End 01.04.2010 - 31.12.2013
Approved amount 626'675.00
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All Disciplines (3)

Discipline
Political science
Environmental Research
Science of management

Keywords (5)

irrigation techniques; water channel; water use rights; institutional regimes; biodiversity

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
In trockenen Gebieten der Schweiz werden Wasserkanäle primär für die Bewässerung der landwirtschaftlichen Flächen genutzt. Von diesen Bewässerungssystemen profitieren aber nicht nur die Landwirtschaft, sondern auch der Tourismus und die Biodiversität. Können Wasserkanäle und das damit verbundene Nutzungssystem ein Modell für eine nachhaltige Wassernutzung der Zukunft bilden, wenn das Wasser in alpinen Trockentälern knapper wird?
Lay summary

Hintergrund

In alpinen Trockentälern werden Wiesen seit Jahrhunderten mit Hilfe von Wasserkanälen bewässert. Dieses Nutzungssystem hat aber in den letzten Jahrzehnten zum Teil grosse Veränderungen erfahren: Wiesen werden an vielen Orten mit Sprinklern und nicht mehr mittels traditioneller Hangberieselung bewässert, Bergwälder leiden unter einer Stilllegung von Wasserkanälen und genossenschaftliche Wassernutzungsrechte und –regulierungen wurden verändert oder aufgegeben. In Abhängigkeit von den lokalen Gegebenheiten ergeben sich damit unterschiedliche Herausforderungen.

Ziele

DasForschungsprojekt „Wasserkanäle“ will die ökologische und gesellschaftliche Bedeutung der historischen Wasserkanäle und der traditionellen Wiesenbewirtschaftung aufzeigen. Wir untersuchen, welchen Einfluss offene Wasserkanäle auf den Bergwald, die umgebende Vegetation und die Tierwelt haben. Zudem beurteilen wir die historisch überlieferten und häufig genossenschaftlichen Eigentums- und Nutzungsrechte sowie deren Veränderungen. Insbesondere interessiert in diesem Zusammenhang auch der Einbezug von neuen (z.B. touristischen) Nutzungen der Wasserkanäle. Auf dieser Basis wird ein Modell einer nachhaltigen Wassernutzung im Zusammenhang mit der Bewässerung in ariden Berggebieten erarbeitet.

Bedeutung

DieResultate sind besonders für trockene Gebiete mit knapper werdenden Wasserressourcen wichtig. Es werden Entscheidungsgrundlagen geliefert, die es erlauben sollen, das Wasser in der Landwirtschaft demokratisch zu verteilen, die Biodiversität zu erhalten und neue Nutzungen einzubeziehen.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 03.04.2013

Lay Summary (French)

Lead
Dans les régions arides de Suisse, les canaux sont utilisés pour l’irrigation des surfaces agricoles. Toutefois, ces systèmes d'irrigation ne sont pas uniquement bénéfiques pour l'agriculture, mais également pour le tourisme et la biodiversité. Les canaux et les systèmes d'utilisation qui y sont liés pourraient-ils servir de modèle en vue d’une gestion durable de l’eau, lorsque celle-ci se raréfiera dans les vallées alpines arides?
Lay summary

Arrière-plan

Dans les vallées alpines arides, les prés sont arrosés depuis des siècles au moyen de canaux d’irrigation. Ce système d'utilisation de l'eau a connu d'importants changements au cours des dernières décennies: dans de nombreux endroits, les prés ne sont plus arrosés par ruissellement, la technique utilisée traditionnellement, mais à l'aide d'asperseurs; les forêts de montagne pâtissent de la désaffectation des canaux d'irrigation; et les concessions de droit d'eau sur un mode coopératif ainsi queles réglementations en la matière ont été modifiées ou abandonnées. Il enrésulte des enjeux différents selon les réalités locales.

Objectifs

Le projet de recherche "Canauxd'irrigation" veut démontrer la signification écologique et sociale descanaux d’irrigation historiques et de l’exploitation traditionnelle des prés. Nous examinons les influences des canaux à découvert sur les forêts de montagne et sur la faune et la flore alentour. De plus, nous étudions les droits de propriété et d’exploitation, souvent coopératifs, qui ont été transmis à travers le temps, ainsi que les changements les concernant. Dans ce contexte, l'intégration de nouvelles utilisations des canaux (à des fins touristiques, p. ex.) présente également un intérêt particulier. Sur cette base, nous élaborerons un modèle de gestion durable de l’eau, en rapport avec l’irrigation dans les régions arides de montagne.

Portée

Les résultats sont d’importance particulière pour les régions arides dont les ressources hydrologiques sont toujours plus maigres. Ce projet fournit les bases de décision qui permettront de partager équitablement l’eau dans l’agriculture, de sauvegarder la biodiversité et d'intégrer de nouvelles utilisations.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 03.04.2013

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
In dry areas of Switzerland, water channels are used primarily for the irrigation of agricultural land. But tourism and biodiversity also benefit from these irrigation systems. Could water channels and their rights of access become a model for sustainable water use in the future, when water will become increasingly scarce in dry Alpine valleys?
Lay summary

Background

Meadows in dry Alpine valley have been irrigated by means of water channels for centuries. This system has seen major changes in the last few decades: many meadows are now watered with sprinklers and not by the traditional method, Alpine forests suffer when water channels are no longer used and the cooperative rules of access have been altered or abandoned. Depending on the local circumstances, a variety of challenges result from these changes.

Aim

The research project "Water channels" aims to highlight the ecological and social importance of the historical channels and the traditional cultivation of meadows. We are exploring the influence of the water channels on the Alpine forests and the surrounding flora and fauna. In addition, we are studying the age-old, often cooperative, rules of use and how they have been altered. In this context, we are particularly interested in the influence of new uses of the water channels (e.g. in tourism). On this basis, we will define a model of sustainable water use in relation to irrigation in arid mountain areas.

Significance

The results are particularly pertinent for dry areas with declining water resources. The project will deliver basic knowledge that will make it possible to distribute water in agriculture democratically, maintain biodiversity and include new uses.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 03.04.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Land-use abandonment owing to irrigation cessation affects the biodiversity of hay meadows in an arid mountain region
Riedener Eliane, Rusterholz Hans-Peter, Baur Bruno (2014), Land-use abandonment owing to irrigation cessation affects the biodiversity of hay meadows in an arid mountain region, in Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment , 185, 144-152.
Effects of different irrigation systems on the biodiversity of species-rich hay meadows
Riedener Eliane, Rusterholz Hans-Peter, Baur Bruno (2013), Effects of different irrigation systems on the biodiversity of species-rich hay meadows, in Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment , 164, 62-69.
Relationships between plant species richness, microhabitat heterogeneity and plot area in differently irrigated hay meadows
Melliger RL (2013), Relationships between plant species richness, microhabitat heterogeneity and plot area in differently irrigated hay meadows.
The impacts of public policies on self- organised resource governance: the case of irrigation in Valais (Switzerland)
Schweizer Rémi, Knoepfel Peter (2013), The impacts of public policies on self- organised resource governance: the case of irrigation in Valais (Switzerland), in Masson E, Arnaud-Fassetta G, Reynard E (ed.), 247-257.
Die Suonen des Wallis. Gouvernanz und Nachhaltigkeit, gestern und heute. Die Grossa und die Suonen des Gredetschtales
Rodewald Raimund (2012), Die Suonen des Wallis. Gouvernanz und Nachhaltigkeit, gestern und heute. Die Grossa und die Suonen des Gredetschtales.
Les bisses du Valais. Gouvernance et durabilité, hier et aujourd’hui. Le cas de Nendaz
Schweizer Rémi (2012), Les bisses du Valais. Gouvernance et durabilité, hier et aujourd’hui. Le cas de Nendaz, IDHEAP, Lausanne.
Apport du concept d’arrangement régulatif à l’analyse de la gestion des systèmes d’irrigation sous l’angle de la durabilité
Schweizer Rémi (2011), Apport du concept d’arrangement régulatif à l’analyse de la gestion des systèmes d’irrigation sous l’angle de la durabilité.
Droits sur les écoservices des ressources naturelles
Knoepfel Peter (2011), Droits sur les écoservices des ressources naturelles, in Droit de l’environnement dans la pratique, 25(8), 915-948.
Les canaux d’irrigation. Un modèle de gestion durable de l’eau
Rodewald Raimund, Knoepfel Peter (2011), Les canaux d’irrigation. Un modèle de gestion durable de l’eau, in SHVR Société d’Histoire du Valais Romand (ed.), 131-145.
Veränderungen in der Kulturlandschaft und deren Brutvogelbestand im Engadin zwischen 1987/88 und 2009/10
Graf R, Korner P (2011), Veränderungen in der Kulturlandschaft und deren Brutvogelbestand im Engadin zwischen 1987/88 und 2009/10.
La gestion d’un réseau complexe d’irrigation en 2010. L’exemple du coteau de Savièse
Schweizer Rémi, Reynard Emmanuel (2010), La gestion d’un réseau complexe d’irrigation en 2010. L’exemple du coteau de Savièse, in SHVR Société d’Histoire du Valais Romand (ed.), 109-129.
Les bisses et leurs modes d’organisation au XXIe siècle, un modèle de gestion durable? Etude de cas à Savièse
Schweizer Rémi (2010), Les bisses et leurs modes d’organisation au XXIe siècle, un modèle de gestion durable? Etude de cas à Savièse.
Accessibility, equity and the sharing of water resources: A critical analysis of community governance models based on a case study of the irrigation channels of the Valais
Schweizer Rémi, Accessibility, equity and the sharing of water resources: A critical analysis of community governance models based on a case study of the irrigation channels of the Valais, in Journal of Alpine Research.
Le local et le global: quatre défis de la codification du droit foncier dans le cadre du processus de rédaction du code civil suisse de 1907
Knoepfel Peter, Schweizer Rémi, Le local et le global: quatre défis de la codification du droit foncier dans le cadre du processus de rédaction du code civil suisse de 1907, in Travesi C , Ponsonnet M (ed.).

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Swiss Geoscience Meeting Talk given at a conference 15.11.2013 Lausanne, Switzerland Schweizer Rémi;
3rd Progress Meeting Poster 01.10.2013 Thun, Switzerland Knoepfel Peter; Schweizer Rémi; Rodewald Raimund;
Open Landscapes Conference Talk given at a conference 30.09.2013 Hildesheim, Germany Riedener Eliane;
Seminar Natur-, Landschafts- und Umweltschutz Individual talk 23.09.2013 Basel, Switzerland Birrer Simon;
ClimTree conference Individual talk 01.09.2013 Zurich, Switzerland Feichtinger Linda;
1st International Conference on Public Policy Talk given at a conference 25.06.2013 Grenoble, France Schweizer Rémi;
LAGAPE research group seminar «Autour de la mise en œuvre de l’action publique» (SSP Faculty) Talk given at a conference 24.04.2013 Lausanne, Switzerland Schweizer Rémi;
Colloque CANAL Talk given at a conference 20.03.2013 Montpellier, France Schweizer Rémi;
Biology 13 Poster 07.02.2013 Basel, Switzerland Riedener Eliane;
PACE 13 Talk given at a conference 06.02.2013 Basel, Switzerland Riedener Eliane; Baur Bruno;
Offenes NLU-Kolloquium - Grundlagen und Anwendungen im Natur-, Landschafts- und Umweltschutz Individual talk 19.11.2012 Basel, Switzerland Schweizer Rémi;
GfÖ-Jahrestagung Talk given at a conference 10.09.2012 Lüneburg, Germany Riedener Eliane; Baur Bruno;
Conference of Tree Rings in Archaeology, Climatology and Ecology Talk given at a conference 09.05.2012 Potsdam, Germany Feichtinger Linda;
Kolloquium für Hydrologie, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau Talk given at a conference 15.12.2011 Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany Rodewald Raimund;
Kolloquium für Natur-, Landschafts- und Umweltschutz der Universität Basel Individual talk 21.11.2011 Basel, Switzerland Rigling Andreas; Feichtinger Linda;
Colloque international «Hydrosystèmes continentaux et territoires européens confrontés aux différentes lois sur l’eau» Talk given at a conference 11.07.2011 Sion, Switzerland Knoepfel Peter; Schweizer Rémi;
Swiss Geoscience Meeting Talk given at a conference 19.11.2010 Fribourg, Switzerland Schweizer Rémi;
Internationales Kolloquium “Die Wasserkanäle (Suonen) - Wirtschaft, Gesellschaft und Kulturerbe” Talk given at a conference 02.09.2010 Sion, Switzerland Knoepfel Peter; Rodewald Raimund;


Self-organised

Title Date Place
International Colloquium: Water Channels: Economy, Society and Cultural Heritage 02.09.2010 Sion, Switzerland

Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Date Place Persons involved
Effects of different irrigation systems on the biodiversity of species-rich hay meadows 19.03.2013 Bern, Switzerland Riedener Eliane;
50 Jahre Cercl’eau Tagung 14.06.2012 Gwatt, Switzerland Rodewald Raimund;


Self-organised

Title Date Place
Forschungsprojekt “Wasserkanäle – ein Modell für nachhaltige Wassernutzung” – Ergebnisse aus unterschiedlichen Gemeinden des Wallis 07.12.2012 Ausserberg, Switzerland
Excursion with secondary school classes along the Niwärch and presentation of the research project 03.09.2012 Ausserberg, Switzerland
Presentation at Volkshochschule Sion 23.01.2012 Sion, Switzerland
Presentation and excursion during the Nationalpark-Tage 16.04.2010 Zernez, Switzerland

Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Other activities Soirée de présentation et de discussion autour des bisses de Nendaz Western Switzerland 2013
Media relations: print media, online media Einfluss der Bewässerungssysteme auf die Brutvögel in der Kulturlandschaft avk-Nachrichten International 2012
Talks/events/exhibitions Flurbewässerung im Val Müstair Rhaeto-Romanic Switzerland 2012
Media relations: print media, online media Demokratisch und ökologisch Horizonte – das Schweizer Forschungsmagazin 90 (September 2011; Schwerpunkt Wasser) German-speaking Switzerland Western Switzerland 2011
Media relations: print media, online media Suonen im Fokus von Klimawandel und Brandschutz - Neue Funktionen und mannigfaltige Verantwortlichke Walliser Bote German-speaking Switzerland 2011
Media relations: radio, television Walliser Suonen: Revival eines Jahrhunderte alten Bewässerungssystems SF Einstein German-speaking Switzerland 2011
Media relations: print media, online media Suonen – ein Modell für nachhaltige Wassernutzung? Medienmitteilung Western Switzerland German-speaking Switzerland 2010
Media relations: print media, online media Suonen – Kulturerbe und Lebenselixier Walliser Bote German-speaking Switzerland 2010
Print (books, brochures, leaflets) Wasserkanäle – ein Modell für nachhaltige Wassernutzung German-speaking Switzerland Western Switzerland 2010

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
154077 Des systèmes d'irrigation alpins entre gouvernance communautaire et étatique - Alpine Bewässerungssysteme zwischen Genossenschaft und Staat 01.01.2014 Publication grants

Abstract

Open water channels have been used for centuries in the arid mountain regions of the world for the transportation and distribution of scarce water for use as drinking water and, in particular, process water in agriculture (irrigation water). Many of these channels are collectively owned and established a historically grown and regulated system of well defined use rights to guarantee a sustainable water management for all water users.To test the capacity of cooperative collectively owned water channel systems for the maintenance or improvement of biodiverse land, we use the concept of institutional regimes, enabling us to identify existing or absent use-rights to goods and services produced by the three different resources shaped, each one, by different social-ecological systems more or less capable to produce responses to external and internal threats defined by their resilience and due to a changing system vulnerability. The channel system is situated in between supplying hydric resources (institutional regime of the concerned water) and the natural resource (more or less biodiverse) soil. Even though the project focuses on the man-made (artificial) resource channel system, it must also consider the existence of rights to more or less permanent water flows feeding the channel system. The main concern of the project is about hydrological ecosystem services of the resource “water channel system”, especially the so-called providing services for biotic production as well as cultural services (recreation) and supporting services such as nutrition cycle, soil formation, photosynthesis. These services are produced, amongst others, by the water flowing through the channels and they are supposed to be necessary for sustainable cultivation and maintenance of agricultural and forest lands in the proximity of these channels.Up to now, there are assumptions but little empirical evidence in relation to the ecological significance of the water channels (channel-associated flora and fauna, diffusion effect of the water for surrounding vegetation in the mountain forest) and meadow irrigation (balancing of the water supply, biodiversity, influence mainly on meadow-breeding birds and vascular plants) as compared with the irrigation system by means of a network of pumps and hydrants. Should it be possible to substantiate these advantages, options for the targeted promotion of the traditional or re-activated meadow irrigation should be examined and proposed, for example, in the context of the overhaul of the system for direct agricultural payments. This will also involve the confirmation of the exemplarity of the complex regulation of the water use rights for a democratic and legally fair system of agricultural water distribution in areas with scarce water resources. Thus, the water channels can constitute a model for an efficient and effective approach to the future management of the scarce good water. The following hypothesis will be tested on the basis of four case studies (for the biodiversity aspects in the Lower Engadine and Mals/Val Müstair; for the mountain forest aspects in the central Valais: region of Crans-Montana and Lötschberg Region): (1) The water channels and the traditional meadow irrigation originally based on it provide ecological advantages for the forest vegetation as well as for the meadow biodiversity (represented by birds, vascular plants and terrestrial gastropods) in the arid mountain regions, (2) The cooperative basis of the water distribution system constitutes an integrated resource regime which can guarantee the ecological and socio-cultural significance in the meaning of hydrological ecosystem services (HES) of the water channels and their complex maintenance in the long-term and can thus become a model for a sustainable and fair approach to the management of the scarce good water in arid mountain regions. The hypotheses will be tested on the basis of empirical case study analyses. In two case studies in the canton Valais (Crans-Montana and Lötschberg region) the growth of dominant trees and the biodiversity of the ground vegetation at three sites along abandoned bisses will be analysed. The bisses should have been shut down in different dates during the last four decades. In addition nearby but still running bisses within the forest are selected as control sites for the vegetation survey to estimate the changes in ground vegetation due to irrigation stop. The spatial expansion of irrigation and trees’ growth reaction to irrigation stop will be anayzed based on tree-ring width and stable isotope composition of the woody tissue. In addition, tree height and needle length will be measured and tree mortality after the irrigation stop will be reconstructed with the local forester. The analysis will follow the classical dendrochronological routines. The forest vegetation analysis will concentrate on species richness and abundance with focus on diagnostic attributes of species.The effect of different irrigation systems on the species richness and abundance of vascular plants and terrestrial gastropods of hay meadows will be assessed. In the regions of Lower Engadine and Mals/Val Müstair the design of the field survey will consist each of nine pairs of areas (replicates) consisting of a traditional irrigated hay meadow and a sprinkler-irrigated meadow. The selection of pairs of meadows is based on similar elevation, exposure, inclination and size to minimize confounding factors. On a larger scale the density of breeding birds will be examined on either type of meadow following the monitoring methods of the Swiss Ornithological Institute. The bird assessment will be conducted in the case studies Lower Engadine and Mals/Val Müstair where bird monitoring data are available since the late 1980ies.The second hypothesis concerns the analysis of the use rights situations, the use rights holders (actor analysis), the legal acts and the relevant policies in all the case studies. Considering the channel system as a resource, the project will identify the whole range of goods and services produced by this resource. Each channel system will not only produce the interesting HES, but many other services which might compete with the latter. In a second step, this institutional part of the project will question these uses by looking at existing or not existing use-rights (in the hands of legitimate user actors) and focus, in a last step, on regulations addressing these use-rights and their user actors. Not all of the uses are rival uses. There might exist many complementarities, which even should be exploited when looking at sustainability and its enforcing actor’s coalitions. On the basis of the most recent literature on institutional economics, Costejà Florensa from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB, 2009) developed an interesting list of practices affecting the capacity of channel systems to solve such rivalries within related social-ecological systems, which might be used as a common basis for the analysis.The exemplarity of the institutional regime system of the water channels concerning use rights, the regulatory framework and the actors behaviour will be compared with an example outside the Alpine region, in Catalonia, Spain, where the above mentioned research studies from the UAB (cooperation partner of the project) in the field of institutional economics are analysing the differences between (central) state owned and run water channel systems as opposed to cooperative local systems. The study will therefore give an important and urgent answer to the scientific and practical question of forest and agricultural strategy how and with which kind of institutional regime we are able to face the increasing forest decline and vegetation shift problems leading to biodiversity losses by water shortage using either traditional water channel or sprinkler irrigation systems.
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