For one year now, in GSI we've been working for the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) secretariat, carrying out the practical implementation of the AWS standard in “Iberesparragal”, a citrus farm in the Guadalquivir basin (Spain), in collaboration with the German supermarket chain EDEKA and WWF. The implementation, which has covered 3 of the 6 steps of the AWS standard so far, is providing key learnings and showing the value of the practical use of different tools to help implementers working towards Water Stewardship.

For more than 2 years now and with the support of Edeka and WWF, the citrus producer has been carrying out actions to improve the sustainability of water use. The actions aim to reduce water consumption, to increase biodiversity protection and reduce/optimize the use of chemicals.

A key learning from the AWS standard implementation is that the standard formally acknowledges for the actions undertaken as they contribute directly to the 4 main results of the Water Stewardship global standard:

  • Sustainable water balance
  • Good water quality status
  • Healthy status of water-related important areas
  • Good water governance

Also, the implementation of the AWS standard has helped to organize the existing information on the water aspects of the farm towards water stewardship; for example the information collected through the process of GlobalGAP certification. And also it has been a way to create new information, cartography and systems to increase understanding of the water use at the farm and catchment level.

The implementation has generated a deeper understanding with producers on water beyond the fenceline of the farm, on the catchment. The producer understands now that the catchment is an interconnected system and that the main risks and opportunities related to water are shared with other water users in the catchment. This has helped producers to create a water stewardship plan in which the stakeholder engagement is a key piece.

The implementation of the AWS standard also showcased the usefulness of different tools to drive Water Stewardship. The Geographic Agricultural Water Footprint Calculator (GAWFC) has provided valuable information on water consumption in the farm to understand and improve the site water balance. The WWF Water Risk Filter and public data available helps implementers to understand the catchment situation and the shared water challenges and risks, and the WaterData4Action watershed information system brings clarity and foster stakeholder engagement at the catchment level.

The human factor, understood as the direct interaction with the local people in form of field visits, workshops and water education, is the remaining key piece for triggering action to improve sustainable water use.

According to Luis Bolaños, manager of the citrus farm, this process has shown him that "Another type of agriculture is possible"

 

The reservoir and the finca. Photo credit: Good Stuff International