Genesis Morocco: The Water Question, Optimising the existing infrastructure, case study Australia.

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Genesis Morocco

Project Genesis is a strategic sustainable development framework for Morocco to translate from being a net importer of energy and a country facing water shortage issues, into the number one producer both of clean renewable energy and water in the region.

Monday, October 26, 2009    <<Home

The Water Question, Optimising the existing infrastructure, case study Australia.

Published: October 26, 2009

PARIS — After more than a decade of failed rains, the Murray-Darling river system in the southeast of Australia — the catchment basin for roughly one-seventh of the country — dries up before it reaches the sea.

Intense drought has forced Australians to adapt and think about how to manage water. Despite usage restrictions and the building of new desalination plants, water remains scarce. At the end of August, reservoir storage levels in some metropolitan cities were as low as 28.4 percent of maximum capacity. The Pykes Creek reservoir in the state of Victoria, with a capacity of 22 billion liters, or 5.8 billion gallons, was barely 2.5 percent full.

“The approach is now to diversify supply, rather than relying on surface water,” said Andrew Speers, industry programs manager of the Australian Water Association, the industry’s main representative body.

Irrigated agriculture that uses 70 percent of the world’s available water resources. The International Water Management Institute projects huge increases in irrigated cropland areas to meet rising demand for grain: a 30 percent expansion in South Asia by 2050 and a 47 percent expansion in East Asia.

To meet that challenge, Australia’s expertise may come in handy. “Australia has experienced an extreme series of drought years in the past decade, so consequently we’ve had to build a series of innovative technologies,” said Robert Sutton, national agribusiness manager of the Australian Trade Commission.

For Rubicon Systems, a company based in Melbourne specializing in irrigation technology, improving water use efficiency has been a major focus. David Aughton, its chief executive, says irrigation systems in some parts of the world are no more than 50 percent efficient. “There’s a lot of waste in the delivery systems,” he said.

Rubicon uses water control gates, measurement systems, software and telecommunications to increase water efficiency and to raise crop yields. “Our technology modernizes existing canal infrastructure,” Mr. Aughton said.

In Australia, the company is upgrading a 6,000-kilometer, or 3,700-mile, canal system in northern Victoria that distributes water to 10,000 farms. Already, water efficiency has increased to 90 percent, from 60 percent, in some areas, cutting annual waste by about 450 million liters, Mr. Aughton said.

Rubicon is also active overseas. “We have two pilot systems in China, another one in India and quite a presence in the United States,” Mr. Aughton said. The company predominantly sells gates and flow meters to different irrigation districts in North America. It has also installed a gate in Provence in France, although “in Europe it’s very early days yet,” he said.

Another Australian company, Water Infrastructure Group, takes a different approach, developing alternative water resources for its clients. In South Australia its Virginia Pipeline system, serving a highly productive greenhouse and market garden area north of Adelaide, is one of the largest and longest-running water recycling projects in the world. Since 1999, more than 100 billion liters of recycled water have been delivered to 320 customers, irrigating more than 200 different crops.

For an initial capital cost of 19 million Australian dollars, or $17.6 million, and a recent extension outlay of 6.6 million dollars, the pipeline system is estimated to have returned a billion dollars in benefit to South Australia.

But effective water management is not yet a mainstay in other parts of the world.

“Every country goes through an evolution when it comes to development,” said Pula Herath, general manager for water and environment at Snowy Mountains Engineering,

“Some of the issues that Australia has dealt with in the past few decades — such as water loss in the supply system — we see them in Africa and most other developing countries now,” Mr. Herath said.

The potential global market for water products, services and technologies could be worth a trillion dollars, said Robert Sutton, national agribusiness manager of the Australian Trade Commission. “Everyone has to drink water, and we need water for agriculture and industry. It’s one of the greatest essential resources in the world,” Mr. Sutton said.

To seize a significant share of that market, the Australian industry is working hard on developing its export potential. The Water Conservation Group, a start-up with 100 clients, began developing its international profile six months ago.

// Personal notes : An extensive survey could be conducted targeting water efficiency in the agricultural field, Im sure we would come up with something there.