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Digital Water Management for Improving Resilience of Agriculture, Food and Health as a Response to Global Risks

IWRA 2021 Online Conference One Water, One Health
Theme 1: How can we better manage water for food and public health in a changing world?
Author(s): Maria Paula Mendes, Dijana Likar

Maria Paula Mendes1, Dijana Likar2

1. CERIS, Civil Engineering Research and Innovation for Sustainability, Instituto Superior Técnico, Universidade de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal
2. Institute for Research in Environment, Civil Engineering and Energy, IECE North Macedonia



Keyword(s): Digital twins, Resilience, Food security; Prediction, Optimization, Climate adaption
Oral:

Abstract

(a) Purpose or objectives and status of study or research hypothesis
Digital Water Management for More Efficient Use of Irrigation Water

(b) Key issue(s) or problem(s) addressed
Water scarcity, digital technologies implementation in agriculture

(c) Methodology or approach used
Collection, review, and summary of published literature; interpretation of findings by various authors; presentation of the state of the art of knowledge; identification of impacts of digitalization on irrigated agriculture; establishment of the pros and cons.

(d) Results and conclusions derived from the project
Improved resilience and reliability of water sector through digitalization leads to improved resilience of other water dependent sectors, especially those connected to agriculture, food and health.

(e) Implications of the project relevant to selected conference theme, theory and/or practice
Water scarcity, food security, and climate resilience have become essential drivers for the digitization of the water sector to ensure resource sustainability and socio-economic benefits. Smart technology applied in irrigation water supply systems will change conventional networks into interconnected, monitored, and automatic adjustable systems. This change will improve the efficiency and reliability of irrigation, establishing the crop's water needs in real-time and, more importantly, will help in planning water intake structures for irrigation, especially, in decentralized systems. The water and agriculture sectors are facing several challenges such as climate change, pandemic, natural disasters, military or political conflicts, and pollution. Good water quality plays an important role in preserving human health and food production. For example, an increase in water salinity can threaten crop yield or even cause their mortality.

Moreover, fecal contamination in irrigation water can endanger human health. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to secure safe and reliable water systems by proper management of the water cycle. The water sector has started its transition towards digitalization, which leverages more rational, sustainable, and reliable management of water resources and provides new functionalities in water management. Digital twins of a farm can be used to identify plant pests and diseases, other crops information, soil data, and energy and water consumption, aiding in the decision-making process, improving management operations, reducing operational costs,
and increasing farm productivity. Physical real-time data, acquired by sensors, drive the virtual models (digital twins) to simulate the physical process and its evolution. Large-scale digital twins of an agricultural landscape, consisting of many individual farms, each with several learning components could be able to establish water flow, fertilizer dispersion, and nutrient leaching.

However, digital twins in agriculture are usually at lower levels of readiness for technology, as they require knowledge of a variety of disciplines, such as the internet of things, cloud computing, machine learning algorithms, and big data analytics. This work provides an overview on how the features of digital twins: intensive cyber-physical connection, real-time interaction (sensors and controlling actuators), simulation of spatiotemporal status, behaviors, functions, and more, would have great advantages for the prevention and control of water pollution, reliability and efficiency of water supply, and food security. It also points to future developments and the  drawbacks of digitization without considering social behavior and appropriate technical and professional formation.

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