Optimizing water use in agriculture to preserve soil and water resources

Project Website

IST, All partners involved

Executive Coordinator:

Projects  Partner and Institution:
Deimos (PT)
IsardSAT (SP)


Agriculture is by far the largest consumer of water, with about 70% of the diverted water being used in irrigation. Agriculture is also considered as a key source of diffuse pollution with inefficient practices resulting in high water and nutrient (particularly N and P) surpluses that are transferred to water bodies through diffuse processes (runoff and leaching), promoting eutrophication with associated biodiversity loss. WATER4EVER aims to demonstrate the connectivity between agricultural practices carried out at the plot scale and the resulting environmental effects that are usually first perceived further downstream. For that, the project combines the most performant monitoring strategies at the plot scale to provide detailed information of water flow and nutrient transport, integrating then this information at the catchment scale to close the gap between diffuse loads and water quality degradation.

The specific objectives are: (i) to develop an automatic irrigation and fertilization Decision Support System (DSS) based on online data and forecast models; (ii) to develop new strategies for continuous monitoring of crop development based on optical sensors installed on fixed and mobile ground, drone and satellite platforms; (iii) to improve process-based models for the dynamics of water and its implication on nutrient budgets, crop development, and soil erosion; (iv) to connect plot and catchment scale models to quantify the effect of local agriculture practices on downstream water availability and quality; and (v) to disseminate and transfer knowledge and technology by means of public information adapted to different stakeholders.


WATER4EVER was implemented in multiple case studies in Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Turkey. Earlier work was on the collection of field datasets for the calibration/validation of some of the innovative tools and approaches developed in the project. These included: (i) a modular smart camera for crop monitoring, which was integrated with other modular and open-source IoT based technologies to upgrade conventional machinery with variable rate technologies to reach higher levels of precision for crop monitoring; (ii) irrigation scheduling tools for improving irrigation water use efficiency in water scarce regions; (iii) the IrrigaSys DSS for irrigation water management at the plot scale based on online, open source tools; (iv) 1 km soil moisture maps for monitoring surface soil moisture at the catchment scale; (v) 100 m soil moisture maps for plot scale monitoring of soil moisture conditions; and (vi) vegetation products (LAI and NDVI) (30m resolution) for crop growth monitoring. Project results further included: (i) validated protocols for sustainable irrigation water management; (ii) guidelines on the best practices for integrating earth observation data in model-based irrigation and fertilization optimization strategies; and (iii) guidelines on the best practices related to soil and water management for each case study.


WATER4EVER results can contribute directly to the implementation of the Nitrates Directive and the Water Framework Directive. The Project is particularly dedicated to raising awareness on the causes of diffuse pollution and respective impacts on the availability and quality of downstream water bodies; on reducing costs of production factors by improving irrigation water and fertilizers efficiency; and on demonstrating the capabilities of emerging technologies (smart cameras, satellite data, process-based models) for improving irrigation water and fertilization management.


WATER4EVER is led by Instituto Superior Técnico (Portugal) and includes Deimos Engenharia SA (Portugal), Instituto de Engenharia de Sistemas e Computadores, Tecnologia e Ciência (Portugal), isardSAT (Spain), Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena (Spain), Institute for Agricultural and Earthmoving Machines of the National Research Council of Italy (Italy), and the Abant Izzet Baysal University (Turkey) in the consortium. More information on WATER4EVER is available at

WP 1 Management - Coordinator IST, All partners involved
WP 2 In situ measurement technologies - Coordinator - INESC TEC, UPC
WP 3 Remote Sensing - Coordinator – Deimos; Other participants: isardSAT
WP 4 Moddeling - Coordinator: AIB University , all other partners;
WP 5 Case Studies - Coordinator – IMAMOTER ; all partners involve
WP 6 Dissemination - UPCT, all partners involved

To combine EO, in situ measuring, hydrological models and crop models to develop operational tools to:
  1. Support Regulated Deficit Irrigation;
  2. Assess the benefits for hydrological resources at the catchment scale

Expected Impact of the Project:
Increase RDI knowledge, Irrigation water saving still improving crop productivity and quality, Quantitative link between, plot and catchment scale, Technological development on sensors, image processing and modelling, Bridging between disciplines and players (Universities, Institutes, Companies)

Main outputs

  • Gao, Q., Zribi, M., Escorihuela, M.J., Baghdadi, N., 2017. Synergetic Use of Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 Data for Soil Moisture Mapping at 100 m Resolution, Sensors 17, 1966,.
  • Gao, Q., Zribi, M., Escorihuela, M.J., Baghdadi, N., Segui, P.Q., 2018. Irrigation Mapping Using Sentinel-1 Time Series at Field Scale, Remote Sens. 10(9), 1495.
  • Ramos, T. B., Simionesei, L., Oliveira, A. R., Darouich, H., Neves, R., 2018. Assessing the impact of LAI data assimilation on simulations of the soil water balance and maize development using MOHID-Land. Water 10, 1367.
  • Capello, G., Biddoccu, M., Ferraris, S., Cavallo, 2019. Effects of tractor passes on hydrological and soil erosion processes in tilled and grassed vineyards. Water, 11, 2118.

More results on the project: Data and resources

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published on 2017/07/31 08:00:00 GMT+1 last modified 2022-05-10T15:43:01+01:00