The Second Regional Virtual Forum of Nexus in Latin America and Caribbean was held on November 19, focusing on Solar-Powered Irrigation Systems (SPIS), its opportunities and challenges. This event was carried out in collaboration with the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, within the context of the WEF Nexus GIZ GADER-ALC Sectoral Network workstream.
The event revealed how the WEF Nexus approach sheds light on the challenges and opportunities for a sustainable usage of SPIS and how it can help to mitigate the risks of overexploitation of water resources. Four panelists shared their experiences and lessons learned from SPIS implementation in Tunisia and Chile and presented the GIZ SPIS Toolbox to 30 participants from various countries and organizations in the region.
SPIS in Tunisia
The study titled “Impact of Solar Pumping Irrigation Systems in Tunisia”, published in 2019 by the Nexus Dialogue Programme, was presented by Maria Ana Rodriguez, Global Nexus Secretariat Coordinator. Her presentation focused on exploring the contribution of SPIS to agriculture and water usage in the region. The study concluded that SPIS installations helped creating jobs in agriculture. However, over 80% of producers used more water than previously, in part due to the popular belief that increasing irrigation will lead to higher production yields. The study recommends:
- introduction of regulatory mechanisms,
- penalization of illegal wells,
- making subsidies contingent on efficient water usage,
- strengthening inspections of water consumption,
- developing local capacity,
- and raising awareness regarding sustainable water usage amongst farmers, civil society, public institutions, and SPIS installers.
Appropriate incentives should be enacted to promote the efficient and sustainable use of water resources, combined with field inspections to check on water usage figures. In addition, SPIS may be combined with feed-in tariffs to sell energy back to the grid during the off-season.
SPIS in Chile
Similarly, the experience with SPIS in Chile was presented by Mr. Ramon Granada, author of an independent study on SPIS implementation commissioned by the GIZ. The introduction of SPIS in the country dates back to 1998, while today over 6MW of SPIS systems are in operation. Consistent with the findings from Tunisia, the main challenge lies in the high initial investment required, although prices have fallen consistently. Additionally, the lack of trainings, planning and technical capabilities regarding the sustainable usage of water resources are obstacles. Hence, training programs were organized in the agricultural sector, and a certification scheme is planned for future installations. SPIS systems have also allowed farmers to use additional energy for self-consumption and injection into the grid by using net-billing, thereby reducing costs. One of the main lessons learned depict that there is an urgent need for coherent communication among government entities to monitor and evaluate SPIS projects. Thus, an integrated, multisectoral approach for an appropriate usage of resources is required.
The SPIS toolbox, developed by the Powering Agriculture program, was presented by Hannah Zander and Vanessa Zansi from the GIZ office in Bonn. Specifically, modules pertaining to water efficiency were explained in further detail, such as exploring available tools for water management. Important key messages of the SPIS toolbox are the following:
- Coordination between ministries: simple processes, credits available for small agricultural producers at low interest rates, good transportation infrastructure.
- Avoiding the risk of overexploitation of water: implement efficient irrigation, mandatory water level monitoring, analysis of market conditions and water management following the SPIS Toolbox modules.
- Business environment: tax incentives and exemptions for SPIS, accelerated depreciation schemes.
- Intersectoral coordination among water, agriculture and energy authorities.
The final presentation and closing remarks were carried out by Miguel Solanes, PhD, water policy expert. Complimenting prior presentations, the need for improving water usage data, monitoring of external economic factors, the role and influence of related stakeholders as well as the participation and coordination among the parties involved were highlighted.
Altogether, there is a pertaining need to assess the incentives required to avoid inefficient irrigation and overexploitation of water resources as well as an improved coordination among the water, energy and agricultural sector.
Building on the success of the three forums carried out so far, the next forum is planned for January 2020 to discuss integrated water resource management in the context of the WEF Nexus approach.