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The Co-MAR concept and how the groundwater user associations are improving integrated water resources management schemes, governance and water security. Demo-sites from Castilla y León (Spain)

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): Dr. Enrique Fernández Escalante, Dr. Elena López Gunn

Dr. Enrique Fernández Escalante (IAH MAR Commission, Tragsa R&D)
Dr. Elena López Gunn (iCatalist Consulting, Spain)

Keyword(s): Regulations, governance, water security, irrigation community (CCRR), groundwater users association (CUA), Co-Managed Aquifer Recharge (Co-MAR), space of collaboration, stakeholders, stakehomers, drou


(a) Purpose or objectives and status of study or research hypothesis
Spanish regulation requires that, for every over-exploited or intensely exploited aquifer, responsible water authorities must engage a groundwater users association (CUAS), to be a unique counterpart to negotiate and reach agreements. This scheme has modified the traditional “top-down” scheme for integrated water resource management (IWRM) into a more collaborative space, in which members of the general public may propose inputs for water management regulations, seeking their benefits, controlling land use practices and, specifically, improving future water supply prospects and water quality standards for long term agricultural development and rural areas improvement.

(b) Key issue(s) or problem(s) addressed
The article demonstrates through real case studies how Public-Private People Partnership (PPPP) enhances governance and water security; how the intervention of farmers (and the population in general) in the Decision Support Systems (DSS) improves hard and soft management measures for IWRM, how CUAs in areas where Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) is applied have introduced the concept Co-MAR, and how the spaces of trust are key in these achievements. A “space of collaboration” is created based in confidence for the fair use of (ground)water resources and organizational measures with a direct influence on groundwater quality.

(c) Methodology
MAR and CUAs serve as entry points to understand the full system, including other IWRM measures. The authors used combined methods consisting of literature reviews, case-study analyses and primary data treatment from more than 50 interviews and five workshops.

(d) Results and conclusions
Looking at the case of groundwater bodies and their respective groundwater user communities in El Carracillo, Medina del Campo, Cubeta de Santiuste de San Juan Bautista and Alcazarén, and the experiences and socio-technical changes from the introduction of Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) facilities (that provide about 25% of the total water used for irrigation in the area), authors demonstrate how these spaces are becoming the basis for new governance schemes that are aimed more sensibility at the collective interest of all users.

(e) Implications of the project relevant to selected conference theme, theory and/or practice
A good example is the Co-Managed Aquifer Recharge activity (Co-MAR), in which the participation of end-users is key to improve the IWRM mechanisms including a bottom-up approach into the traditional top-down one, usually employed by water authorities in previous stages. Co-MAR has permitted higher economic indicators in the areas where MAR activities are taking place.

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