Action and measures to save water in agriculture


Proposed Short-term Actions

Increase and Expansion of the Water Producer Program

The first theme refers to the increase and expansion of the Water Producer Program by the Brazilian National Water Agency (Agência Nacional de Águas - ANA), proposing and stimulating the development of other initiatives that encourage payment for environmental services in rural areas.

Programs of Payment for Environmental Services

Actions towards payment for environmental services should be intensified in Brazilian states facing critical conditions, including the survey and assessment of existing actions; acceleration of the elaboration of the Joint Integrated Program of Payment for Environmental Services; anticipation and identification of critical priority subwatersheds of common interest; identification of executing technicians and entities, and survey of funds required for the implementation of actions aimed at the production of environmental services; immediate allocation of funds required for the payment for environmental services in priority subwatersheds; and the joint definition of a strict schedule for the implementation of projects.

Capacity-building programs for sustainable integrated management of water in rural areas

A fundamental point in the process of improving the use of water in agriculture is the technical capability of the stakeholders concerned. It is important to prioritize short-term capacity-building activities on the sustainable integrated management of water in rural areas. Efforts should be focused on critical areas within states and municipalities.  

Proposed Short and Medium-Term Actions

Monitoring of water availability for irrigated agriculture

What is the water availability for irrigated agriculture? Answering this question seems simple enough, but it presents a problem of scale. Irrigation water issues appear more clearly in small basins (small scale rivers or streams), for which measurements are not usually available. The solution is the simulation of water availability through hydrological models. 

Technologies to adapt properties to collect rainwater, refill water tables, and revitalize fountainheads and streams

Dams or mini-ponds to store runoff, which promote water infiltration into the soil and intercepting sheet erosion flows, can facilitate increased soil moisture levels and raised water tables. The main purpose of such technology is to rehabilitate areas degraded by rains, revitalize and perennialize fountainheads with high-quality water, and assuage droughts and floods. Technologies to build mini-dams have been implemented in many regions of the country since 1993, bringing environmental, social, and economic benefits for the local populations. There are 150,000 mini-dams cataloged in which Embrapa was directly involved, and over 600 technicians from EMATERs (state technical assistance and rural extension agencies) have been trained by Embrapa in 12 years.

Other technologies available

Underground dams

Use of undergrounds dams as a technology with a potential to improve and balance the production process, promoting higher stability and resilience, especially in Semiarid ecosystems.

Reuse of water in agriculture and use of lower quality water

Residual water from other animal and plant production systems, from industries, of urban origin, or saltwater. Learn more about the Freshwater Program (Programa Água Doce), by the Ministry of the Environment.

Soil and water conservation practices in irrigated production systems

They include soil management, no-till farming, crop rotation and succession, intercropping, and artificial soil protection with the purpose of reducing evaporation, wherein water in the main variable.

Adequate cultivars

Through genetic manipulation, researchers were able to introduce a gene that makes soybean plants more tolerant to drought. Named Y, such gene is capable of activating and potentializing other natural defense genes. That increases plants' capacity to withstand water scarcity for longer. The gene Y was patented by the Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (Jircas) − a Japanese government research institute – and isolated from the plant Arabidopsis thaliana −  one of the species that is most commonly used in current scientific research. 
After the coffee genome was identified, a gene was found that makes other grains more resistant to drought. It is being tested in soybeans, maize, wheat, sugarcane, rice, and cotton. In the case of sugarcane, modified plants are being tested in partnership with the Sugarcane Technology Center (Centro de Tecnologia Canavieira). There is also the early dwarf cashew clone BRS 226 Planalto,  which has presented surprising productivity, reaching 800 kilos of nuts per hectare in properties in the state of Piauí.