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Lifting water is crucial to irrigate agricultural terraces in the Mediterranean region. But the energy demand and emissions of modern forms of water pumping have increased, while many traditional water wheels, which lift water at zero direct emissions, have been abandoned. We explored the state of preservation and the potential for the deployment of traditional water wheels known as “norias” in the Ricote Valley of southeast Spain, where some are still in function, while also investigating the reasons for their widespread abandonment. A mixed method approach is used here to combine GIS-based methods, an expert survey, and a technological and socio-economic assessment of noria renovation. Our findings show that norias in the Ricote Valley have mostly been replaced by thermal-engine water-lifting technologies. The reactivation of traditional irrigation technologies, many of them lying dormant but still standing, could contribute to reducing the high energy demand and the resulting emissions of irrigation systems in the Mediterranean region and beyond. It was estimated by data extrapolation that 16 renovated norias included in our analysis can irrigate 140.3 ha in the Ricote Valley, for a total achievable power of 23.8 kW. To irrigate a similar surface applying diesel motor pumps would produce up to 148 tons of emissions/year and cost up to approx. 70,000 €/year based on a price of 1.25€/l diesel for a maximum of 8760 working hours/year. In the case of electric pumps, we estimate that up to 55 tons of emissions/year and costs up to approx. 48,000 €/year can be saved. Therefore, we argue that rediscovering traditional technologies has potential to contribute to achieving climate actions that reduce GHG emissions (Sustainable Development Goal 13). Moreover, these technologies provide multiple functions and services for a sustainable life on land (Sustainable Development Goal 15), which needs to be considered within a holistic approach.
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Agricultural Water Management 259 (2022) 107240
Available online 21 October 2021
0378-3774/© 2021 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Reinventing the wheel The preservation and potential of traditional water
wheels in the terraced irrigated landscapes of the Ricote Valley,
southeast Spain
Katharina Heider
a
,
*
, Emanuele Quaranta
b
, Jos´
e María García Avil´
es
c
,
Juan Miguel Rodriguez Lopez
a
, Andrea L. Balbo
d
, Jürgen Scheffran
a
a
Research Group Climate Change and Security (CLISEC), Institute of Geography and Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability (CEN), University of Hamburg,
Grindelberg 5, 20144 Hamburg, Germany
b
European Commission Joint Research Centre, Via E. Fermi, 2749, 21027 Ispra, Italy
c
University of Alicante, Carr. de San Vicente del Raspeig, s/n, 03690 San Vicente del Raspeig, Alicante, Spain
d
CEO Platform anthropocene Inc. Understanding Human-Earth Interaction www.planthro.org, 160 Riverside Blvd 30E, 10069 New York, USA
ARTICLE INFO
Handling Editor - Dr. B.E. Clothier
Keywords:
Irrigated agriculture
Cultural landscape
Multifunctionality of agriculture
Water management
Emission mitigation
ABSTRACT
Lifting water is crucial to irrigate agricultural terraces in the Mediterranean region. But the energy demand and
emissions of modern forms of water pumping have increased, while many traditional water wheels, which lift
water at zero direct emissions, have been abandoned. We explored the state of preservation and the potential for
the deployment of traditional water wheels known as noriasin the Ricote Valley of southeast Spain, where
some are still in function, while also investigating the reasons for their widespread abandonment. A mixed
method approach is used here to combine GIS-based methods, an expert survey, and a technological and socio-
economic assessment of noria renovation.
Our ndings show that norias in the Ricote Valley have mostly been replaced by thermal-engine water-lifting
technologies. The reactivation of traditional irrigation technologies, many of them lying dormant but still
standing, could contribute to reducing the high energy demand and the resulting emissions of irrigation systems
in the Mediterranean region and beyond. It was estimated by data extrapolation that 16 renovated norias
included in our analysis can irrigate 140.3 ha in the Ricote Valley, for a total achievable power of 23.8 kW. To
irrigate a similar surface applying diesel motor pumps would produce up to 148 tons of emissions/year and cost
up to approx. 70,000
/year based on a price of 1.25
/l diesel for a maximum of 8760 working hours/year. In the
case of electric pumps, we estimate that up to 55 tons of emissions/year and costs up to approx. 48,000
/year
can be saved.
Therefore, we argue that rediscovering traditional technologies has potential to contribute to achieving
climate actions that reduce GHG emissions (Sustainable Development Goal 13). Moreover, these technologies
provide multiple functions and services for a sustainable life on land (Sustainable Development Goal 15), which
needs to be considered within a holistic approach.
1. Introduction
The expansion of agriculture globally is putting high pressure on
resources and biodiversity (IPBES, 2019). As much as 70% of global
freshwater withdrawal and 38% of the Earths terrestrial surface serves
agricultural production (Foley et al., 2011). While crop yields per
hectare have increased signicantly within the last decades and
irrigated agriculture provides 34% of the global food production using
24% of the global agricultural land (Foley et al., 2011; IAASTD, 2009),
decades of agricultural expansion, intensive cultivation, homogeniza-
tion and irrigation have also led to environmental and social degrada-
tion (Bjornlund and Bjornlund, 2019; IAASTD, 2009; Lasanta et al.,
2017a; Lomba et al., 2019). In the Mediterranean region, future
warming is expected to exceed global warming rates by 25%, with
* Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: katharina.heider@uni-hamburg.de (K. Heider), emanuele.quaranta@ec.europa.eu (E. Quaranta), garcia.aviles@ua.es (J.M. García Avil´
es),
miguel.rodriguez@uni-hamburg.de (J.M. Rodriguez Lopez), andrea.balbo@planthro.org (A.L. Balbo), juergen.scheffran@uni-hamburg.de (J. Scheffran).
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Agricultural Water Management
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/agwat
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agwat.2021.107240
Received 9 July 2021; Received in revised form 3 October 2021; Accepted 4 October 2021
Agricultural Water Management 259 (2022) 107240
2
extreme summer temperatures and reduced precipitation. At the same
time, Mediterranean agriculture is intensifying with increased irrigation
and energetic use, and consequently with undesirable effects on water
resources, biodiversity, climate and landscape functioning (Cramer
et al., 2018; Martin-Gorriz et al., 2021).
In Spain, ongoing transformations in the irrigation systems can
potentially reduce water consumption per hectare, but energy demand
has increased by 657% between 1950 and 2008, following the wide-
spread introduction of thermal-engine pumping systems (Soto-García
et al., 2013). Consequently, irrigation is responsible for 45% of GHG
emissions from agriculture in Spain, conicting with the EUs emission
targets (European Commission, 2020; Martin-Gorriz et al., 2021).
Sustainable alternatives for intensive irrigation systems are urgently
needed. The revival of pre-industrial technologies and traditional
ecological knowledge may help nding new sustainable solutions, e.g.
improved water efciency based on agroecological practices like cover
crops, contour farming, the use of agricultural terraces and locally
adapted crops or, as we will explore in this study, the reintroduction of
traditional water wheels, known as norias (Altieri and Nicholls, 2012;
Bernard and Lux, 2017; IAASTD, 2009; Lomba et al., 2019; Pretty,
2018).
Traditional terraced smallholder agriculture is an important
component of rural Mediterranean landscapes and remains a predomi-
nant farming model in the Ricote Valley (Heider et al., 2021). It repre-
sents the outcome of the long-term convergence of human and
environmental trajectories, resulting in a social-ecological system that
has proven its stability and resilience over the past ten centuries or more
(Balbo et al., 2016; Blondel, 2006; Lasanta et al., 2017b). The agricul-
tural terraces of the Ricote Valley are part of a gravity-based irrigation
system, which was introduced more than 1000 years ago (Puy and
Balbo, 2013). Water wheels that lift irrigation water to higher agricul-
tural terraced land, known as norias, have played a key role in the
long-term sustainability of these irrigated landscapes, allowing the
exponential extension of irrigated land based on a zero-emission
technology.
The rural development policy within the second pillar of the common
agricultural policy (CAP) of the EU aims to combine ecological and so-
cial needs with economic targets. Unfortunately, the CAP has also,
perhaps unwillingly, contributed to the homogenization of rural land-
scapes and to the deterioration of small-scale agriculture during the last
decades (Chemnitz, 2019; Heider et al., 2021; Lefebvre et al., 2015). A
minimum area of 0.2 ha is needed to obtain subsidies in Spain. This,
combined with the gradual withdrawal of small amounts of public aids,
has further intensied these trends (BOE, 2014), accelerating the
abandonment of traditional technologies, often used and maintained by
smallholders.
While ubiquitous in large human agglomerations, knowledge and
innovations are fast eroding in rural areas, also due to rural-urban
migration of the young population (Balbo et al., 2020; Tacoli and
Mabala, 2010). The resulting lack of access to existing knowledge is
another major limitation for smart and sustainable development in rural
areas (Copus et al., 2011), where traditional knowledge is a key
dimension of sustainability. By focusing on the appreciation of regional
endowments, such as biophysical, economic, cultural, social, historic
and technological strengths, our paper explores smart and green
specialization strategies in rural areas (Asheim et al., 2011; Thissen
et al., 2013).
In the literature, norias are mostly investigated from a historic
perspective (Glick, 1977; Headworth, 2004), stressing their cultural
heritage values (Bravo S´
anchez, 2018; Gil Meseguer, 2014), techno-
logical values (Banegas Ortiz and G´
omez Espín, 1992; G´
omez Espín,
2014; Yannopoulos et al., 2015), as well as evaluating their performance
(Stillwater and Awad, 1991). Indeed, water wheel sites (both mills and
pumping sites) can be considered among the main drivers of economic,
industrial and social development of rural agricultural spaces before the
industrial revolution (Hassan, 2011; Quaranta and Wolter, 2021). It is
estimated that over 350,000 of such hydro sites may have existed in
Europe at one time or another. In Japan water wheels comprised 56% of
total power generation until 1886 (Punys et al., 2019; Quaranta and
Wolter, 2021).
The abandonment of most norias in Spain started with the general-
ized introduction of motor pumps over the past decades (Bravo S´
anchez,
2018; Closas, 2014). The following increase of intensive groundwater
extraction technologies promoted over-extraction in Spain (Closas,
2014). Indeed, most water wheels have been replaced by motors or
hydro plants all over Europe (Quaranta et al., 2021).
From a current perspective, norias are valued for promoting land-
scape aesthetics as well as the multifunctionality of rural areas by
fostering recreation and rural tourism (Gil Meseguer, 2014). Further-
more, water wheels are increasingly valued for renewable power pro-
duction at low head sites and at old mill weirs. This opens up
possibilities for the re-use of traditional water wheels (installed power
typically below 50 kW), which have been abandoned during the past
decades (Müller and Kaupert, 2004; Quaranta and Revelli, 2018;
Quaranta, 2018; Quaranta et al., 2021).
This study analyses the state of norias in the Ricote Valley, while also
exploring the reasons for their deterioration. Furthermore, we investi-
gate the potential for their renovation and their potential contribution to
the multifunctionality of agriculture. This leads to the following
research questions:
1. What is the current state of preservation of norias in the Ricote
Valley?
2. What are the reasons for the observed abandonment of norias during
the past decades?
3. What is the potential of noria renovation for a sustainable agricul-
tural system?
To address these questions, we used a mixed method approach
combining GIS-based methods, an expert survey, and an assessment of
the potentials of noria renovation. First, we collected available geo data
to explore the state of preservation and location of norias in the Ricote
Valley. Second, we combined participant observation with the inquiry of
experts to identify the reasons for the deterioration of norias. Finally, we
investigated the norias under a hydraulic and geometric perspective
with the aim of calculating their irrigation potential (i.e. the pumped
ow rate, irrigated area) as well as emission mitigation and saved costs,
compared to electric and diesel pumps. We also elaborated their geo-
metric dimensions in order to nd easy and expeditious tools that can be
used in future research to re-construct and estimate unknown di-
mensions and performance of norias. The estimation of such dimensions
is important to better understand their historical deployment for irri-
gation in the past, but also their potential as an integral component of
future pathways for sustainable agricultural systems. The results will be
then discussed with focus on the Ricote Valley and could be extrapolated
to other traditional agricultural landscapes in the Mediterranean region.
2. Study area
The study area is the Ricote Valley in the Region of Murcia, southeast
Spain (Fig. 1). The climate in the study area is semi-arid with strong
seasonality. We include in our analysis seven villages, which stretch
alongside the Segura River: Abar´
an, Blanca, Ricote, Ojos, Ulea, Villa-
nueva, and Archena with a population of 44,742 in 2020 (Instituto
Nacional de Estadística, 2021). Part of the villages are the traditional
orchards (Fig. 2). Lemon is the current primary crop cultivated in the
valley, followed by olive, almond, multiple fruits, and vegetables. Many
farmers cultivate their primary products for export, which leads to
challenges due to price volatility and competition with modern indus-
trial agriculture in the neighboring regions (Heider et al., 2021).
Furthermore, the agricultural properties are highly fragmented due to
the traditional heritage system in the study area. Most of the agricultural
K. Heider et al.
Agricultural Water Management 259 (2022) 107240
3
properties are smaller than 1 hectare (Heider et al., 2018). Thus,
smallholder farming dominates agriculture in the study area until today.
The traditional orchards contain multiple levels of agricultural ter-
races in different sizes and shapes divided by stonewalls and crossed by
small irrigation canals. These terraces are part of a hydraulic system,
which was introduced by Amazigh Berber populations over 1000 years
ago for ood irrigation (Puy and Balbo, 2013). Norias were added at a
later stage of expansion of these agricultural systems, lifting water and
expanding agricultural land to ever higher grounds. They are distributed
along irrigation canals outbranched from the Segura river, which is
characterized by strong seasonal differences and high ood risk (Min-
isterio para la Transici´
on Ecol´
ogica y el Reto Demogr´
aco, 2021).
Technically, the norias in the Ricote Valley originate from the
Egyptian water wheelwith buckets attached and powered by the
water ow. It was originally invented by the Romans approx. between
600 and 700 BCE (Yannopoulos et al., 2015). During the Middle Ages,
the expansion of Arab civilizations contributed to the broad diffusion
and progressive modication of norias across the Islamic world (Mar-
tínez Soler and Banegas Ortiz, 1994). In the Ricote Valley, they probably
existed prior to the 16th century, as they were well-known and wide-
spread in Al-Andalus. However, their installation in the valley coincided
with a population increase and therefore the need to increase irrigated
cropland from the 16th century onwards (García Avil´
es, 2000; Puy,
2012). With an increasing production, the transport of locally produced
crops became also important, with large numbers of muleteers in the
valley deployed to export cash crops (García Avil´
es, 2007). The current
norias are a result of the adaptation to the cultivation of new crops,
rising production and rising irrigation needs for an increasing agricul-
tural area. Therefore, they increased in size with the increasing needs for
water uplift (García Avil´
es, 2007; P´
erez Picazo and Lemeunier, 1990).
The traditional irrigation system, made of historic elements such as
norias, irrigation canals, and agricultural terraces, shapes a cultural and
multifunctional landscape, which represents the local water culture of
the region (García Avil´
es, 2014, 2000; Gil Meseguer, 2010). At the same
time, it illustrates pre-industrial ingenuity and creativity for water use
prior to the introduction of thermal-engine machines. Therefore, such
systems do not represent only tangible heritage, but also the intangible
heritage and technological knowledge needed for their design and
maintenance. This knowledge has been transmitted over centuries.
Today, a touristic route with information panels follows the Segura
River along the norias of Abar´
an, which have been declared of cultural
interest (spn. Bien de Inter´
es Cultural, BIC) (Ayuntamiento de Abar´
an,
Fig. 1. The Ricote Valley, Murcia, southeast Spain, and the seven villages included in our study.
Fig. 2. Terraces alongside the Segura River in the Ricote Valley (Photo:
Andreas Bischoff).
K. Heider et al.
Agricultural Water Management 259 (2022) 107240
4
2021; García Avil´
es, 2014, 2000; Gil Meseguer, 2010, 2014). On the
other hand, the irrigation system has been modernized and drip irriga-
tion has largely substituted traditional irrigation techniques to minimize
water consumption and to improve farmersworking conditions (Puy
et al., 2016).
3. Data and methods
To answer our research questions, we implemented a mixed method
approach that integrates two strands of analysis (Fig. 3). In the rst
strand, we (a) explored the state and location of norias in the Ricote
Valley using GIS technologies including in-situ correction, (b) identied
reasons for the deterioration of norias using participant observation
supported by a literature review and (c) conducted an expert survey to
identify additional reasons for deterioration and quantify the impor-
tance of each reason. In the second strand, we (a) calculated the irri-
gation potential of the norias in the Ricote Valley, estimated the
unknown geometric dimensions, (b) their potential to mitigate emis-
sions, and (c) their potential to produce power. Fig. 3 shows the mixed
method research design with two strands. The rst strand combines an
explanatory design (phase 1 and 2a) to deepen the ndings of the
quantitative geo data analysis about the current state and location of
norias with an exploratory design (phase 2a and 3) to identify reasons
for the deterioration and quantify them. In the third phase, we inte-
grated quantitative and qualitative data using the reasons identied
during participant observation in the expert survey. In phase 2b in the
second strand, we explored the future potential of the traditional tech-
nologies integrating our collected geo data (phase 1) and focusing on
traditional and innovative usages. We integrated both strands in the
discussion (phase 2b and phase 3). The priority is given to quantitative
research methods (Kuckartz, 2014).
3.1. Data and data collection
To identify the location of the norias in the Ricote Valley, we used an
ofcial list provided by Rhe region of Murcia (i.e. Consejería de Turismo,
Cultura y Medio Ambiente). Based on this list, we created a geo-database
of norias. In this database, we collected available data about the char-
acteristics of the norias (i.e. diameter, width, number of paddles, irri-
gated area, lifted water volume) combining information from research
(Bravo S´
anchez, 2018), local working groups (Martínez Soler and
Banegas Ortiz, 1994) and on-site information from the Region of Murcia
(i.e. information panels).
We validated each location in-situ in the orchards of the Ricote
Valley in summer 2019. For the validation, we uploaded our database to
ArcGIS Online and used the ArcGIS Collector App to validate and edit
data. During this process, we aggregated the condition of each noria and
created four categories to describe it. The category In use describes a
noria that is still working and lifts irrigation water to an irrigation canal
on a higher elevation; Conserved describes a site, where the base and the
wheel of the noria are still existing; Destroyed describes a site, where the
wheel of the noria is non-existent but the base is still present; Dis-
appeared describes a site, where wheel and base are non-existent. Data
visualization was conducted in SAGA-GIS (Conrad et al., 2015).
3.2. Exploring reasons for the deterioration of norias
In the next step, we explored the reasons for the deterioration of the
norias in the Ricote Valley. To integrate local perspectives, we used
participant observation and a survey of eleven experts. During partici-
pant observation in the study area, we communicated regularly with
local stakeholders and participated in agricultural activities (Thomas,
2019). We combined insights from participant observation with a
literature review. Based on this, we selected possible reasons for the
deterioration of norias, which were included in the expert survey. Ex-
perts were selected based on their expertise on the topic, location, and
their availability. Eleven experts with administrative, scientic, legal,
and economic backgrounds participated in the survey (see Table 1). In
June 2019, we requested the experts to evaluate the importance of
preselected reasons for the deterioration of norias in the Ricote Valley on
a scale from 0 (not important) to 4 (very important), and they could also
add other reasons. For the evaluation, we (a) created new categories that
combined the preselected and added reasons; (b) calculated the
weighted arithmetic mean of the new categories, considering the num-
ber of persons mentioning each added reason; and (c) included only
reasons with a value higher than 2 (moderate importance).
3.3. Exploring the potentials of noria renovation in the Ricote Valley
In this section the procedure to estimate the power developed by a
noria, its lifted ow rate, and the saved emissions compared to an
electric or diesel pump, is explained. These quantities are a function of
Fig. 3. Mixed method research design combining quantitative (quan) and qualitative (qual) methods.
K. Heider et al.
Agricultural Water Management 259 (2022) 107240
5
the geometric and hydraulic characteristics of the norias, so they have to
be known or estimated (Fig. 4).
The rst step consisted of nding the mathematical relation between
diameter and number of blades, also called paddles. The number of
paddles is known for 11 norias. By plotting the number of paddles versus
the diameter (Fig. 5), the following equation was found:
n=3.42D+24.87 (1)
where n is the number of paddles and D is the diameter (m). Eq. (1)
exhibits a coefcient of determination R
2
=0.76. By Eq. (1) the number
of paddles can be estimated as a function of the wheel diameter, and
then choosing a multiple of 4 (common practice both for norias and also
for water wheels). By knowing diameter and number of paddles, the
circumferential distance between two adjacent paddles can be calcu-
lated. Eq. (1) is an expeditious equation that can be generalized and used
to estimate the number of blades of any noria. Eq. (1) is in line with some
equations to estimate the number of paddles (as a function of diameter)
commonly used for water wheels designed to power mills or generate
electricity (Quaranta and Revelli, 2018). The slope of Eq. (1)
(slope =3.42), that expresses a change in the number of blades with the
diameter, is smaller than the analogous equations for water wheels
because the diameter of norias is generally much larger than that of the
other water wheel types. Examining the equations summarized in
Quaranta and Revelli (2018), the paddle number that is closest to Eq. (1)
is that proposed by Weisbach and Johnson (1849).
The second design dimension that was analysed is the immersed
length l of the paddle. Based on the Noria de la Hoya (Fig. 4), where
pictures and videos are available, l=D/8 was estimated. This dimension
was considered valid for all the other norias. This value is in line with the
commonly suggested dimension of l=D/5 for oating water wheels
(Quaranta, 2018). For the norias, the length is smaller (D/8 instead of
D/5) because of the very large diameters (>5 m).
The rotational speed was instead estimated by considering the
known diameter and speed of the Noria de la Hoya, and the equation
proposed in Quaranta and Revelli (2015) for overshot water wheels:
N=c
̅̅̅̅
D
(2)
with N the rotational speed (revolution per minute, rpm) and c a coef-
cient that is 30 m
1/2
for overshot water wheels (see Quaranta and
Revelli, 2018). In our case, the coefcient c for the Noria de la Hoya was
estimated to be c=4.3 m
1/2
min
-1
. By Eq. (2), the rotational speed N of
each noria can be estimated from the diameter. Eq. (2) practically ex-
presses the Froude hydraulic similarity concept, where velocities scale
as the square root of linear dimensions. With such estimated N, the
tangential speeds range between 0.5 and 0.7 m/s, which is consistent
with the fact that, in general, the optimal tangential speed of stream
water wheels (i.e. water wheels driven by the kinetic energy of owing
streams) is one half of the river velocity. In our case, this would corre-
spond to 11.4 m/s, a common ow velocity in rivers and canals
(Quaranta, 2018).
The other analysed dimension was the container dimension. For the
Noria de la Hoya, the container equals the distance between two pad-
dles, which is intuitive. Width and depth of the container are one quarter
of the wheel width. These proportions can be applied to all the norias
whose container dimensions are not known.
By knowing the container dimensions and the rotational speed, the
lifted ow rate Q could be estimated, considering that it is known for
two norias (Noria de la Hoya and Noria Grande). The estimation of the
lifted ow allows to calculate the power developed by the wheel (Eq.
(3))
P=
ρ
gQH (3)
where P (W) is the power, g is the gravity acceleration (9.81 m/s
2
),
ρ
=1000 kg/m
3
is the density of water, Q is the lifted ow rate (m
3
/s)
and H (m) is the pumping head (in the case of norias, H=D).
From Eq. (3), it can be seen that, for a certain power, the higher the
pumped head H is, the lower must be the lifted ow Q. Therefore, Q is
inversely proportional to the head H (i.e. the diameter). Furthermore,
the lifted ow Q is proportional to the cross-section area A (m
2
) of the
container that catches the water from the river below the noria.
Therefore, it is possible to dene the coefcient q expressed in Eq. (4):
Q=qA
H(4)
From Eq. (4), q=5.83 m
2
/s for the Noria de la Hoya and
q=5.02 m
2
/s for the Noria Grande, so that an average value of
q=5.4 m
2
/s can be taken as reference. The fact that the values of q for
the two norias are similar, conrms the method is reasonably general-
izable. Therefore, the value of Q for the other norias was estimated as
Table 1
Characteristics of eleven experts.
Attribute Frequency
Gender
Female 2
Male 9
Age
Average 58
Education
University degree 10
Professional formation 0
A-levels 1
Occupational sector
Academia 5
Civil servant 1
Law 2
Agriculture 3
Fig. 4. Geometric and hydraulic characteristics of norias (here: Noria de la
Hoya, Abar´
an).
Fig. 5. Number of paddles versus the diameter based on 11 norias.
K. Heider et al.
Agricultural Water Management 259 (2022) 107240
6
Q=5.4 A
H, and implemented in Eq. (3) to estimate the power developed
by the norias.
4. Results
4.1. Current state and location of norias in the Ricote Valley
We identied the location of 24 norias in the Ricote Valley as well as
their current condition (phase 1). The condition and location of each
noria in the Ricote Valley is shown in Fig. 6. Three norias (12%) are still
in use to lift irrigation water. All of them are located in Abar´
an (green).
13 norias (54%), classied as conserved, are distributed across the
valley. Four norias are destroyed (17%) and four have disappeared
(17%). Examples for each category are given in Fig. 6.
4.2. Reasons for the observed deterioration of norias during the past
decades
As expected, most of the norias (88%) in the Ricote Valley are no
longer in use. The eleven consulted experts identied multiple reasons
for their deterioration in the Ricote Valley. The most important reasons
are 1) use of new technologies; 2) lack of valorization of traditional
technologies; 3) high maintenance costs; 4) expansion of infrastructures
and urbanization.
Most norias have been replaced by motor pumps during the past
decades, contributing to the high energy demand and related emissions
of Spanish irrigation systems. According to experts, the lack of valori-
zation of traditional technologies plays an important role and can be
explained by an increasing loss of the relationship between local pop-
ulations and agriculture. In particular, the young generation is less
interested in continuing the agricultural activities. This leads to a lack of
transmission of traditional knowledge between generations and loss of
interest in heritage conservation. The noria as an instrument of pro-
duction and a material heritage, which is passed down from parents to
children along with the land, suffers the same neglect as the land it ir-
rigates. In the words of a local farmer: Todays traditional agriculture in
the valley survives because of small technical improvements and senti-
mental value, but the generation after mine no longer understands this
sentimentality.
Furthermore, the high maintenance costs had a large effect on the
deterioration of the norias. Many norias have been nanced by their
users. Often users are organized in local userscommunities (i.e. irri-
gators communities). These communities are responsible for the main-
tenance of norias, and reparation costs are usually distributed between
users. But the local irrigators communities are facing increasing eco-
nomic challenges. Most users have a low income from agricultural ac-
tivities without price premiums or subsidies. For example, the common
agricultural policy (CAP) does not grant aid to owners of small plots. A
minimum area is required to qualify for subsidies and in the Ricote
Valley, only a few farmers fulll this requirement. Additionally, the
number of users decreases due to land abandonment. As a local farmer
describes: Small farms with traditional agricultural or livestock pro-
duction systems are disappearing, absorbed by agribusiness, they have
been preserved where their products are valued and the farmers can
earn an appropriate income with their production.
Finally, the expansion of infrastructure and urbanization led to the
displacement of agricultural activities. While norias in the Ricote Valley
were originally constructed within the traditional orchards, several of
them are now located next to main roads or within urban areas. This is
the case for the Noria Grande de Abar´
an and the Noria La Tía Vicenta
surrounded by sealed surfaces in small urban recreational areas.
All consulted experts considered the preservation of norias impor-
tant, arguing for their high historical, cultural, touristic, and techno-
logical value and they agreed that the conservation of norias should not
be sustained by the users alone. Eight out of eleven experts think that
renovation and maintenance should be co-nanced between users, local
and regional authorities.
Based on our ndings, we have identied three main management
Fig. 6. Preservation state of 24 norias in the Ricote Valley, Murcia. Green points represent norias in use, yellow points represent conserved norias, orange points
represent destroyed norias, and red points represent norias that have disappeared totally. Examples are illustrated on the right.
K. Heider et al.
Agricultural Water Management 259 (2022) 107240
7
patterns for norias in the Ricote Valley. In the rst pattern, norias are
still in use and irrigate the surrounding agricultural area. However, due
to land abandonment or urbanization, the agricultural area has been
reduced, and the irrigators community is confronted with higher costs
per farmer for maintenance. In the case of the Noria de la Hoya in
Abar´
an (Fig. 4) and to solve the difculties in the irrigators community,
a single landowner, who owns much of the land irrigated by the noria,
agreed to maintaining it. Furthermore, Noria de la Hoya has been
declared of cultural interest (BIC), and benets from support by the
regional administration.
In the second pattern, norias are no longer used for irrigation, but are
maintained for reasons of heritage conservation. This is the case of Noria
Grande de Abar´
an, maintained in function although the irrigated land is
lost to urbanization. It has been declared as asset of cultural interest
(BIC) and the regional administration became responsible for mainte-
nance. However, the change of responsibilities can represent an addi-
tional challenge, hampering the transmission of local traditional
knowledge, necessary for cost-effective maintenance (Asociaci´
on Cul-
tural La Carraila, 2019).
In the third pattern, the noria is surrounded mostly by abandoned
land or has been substituted by motor pumps and is neither used, nor
renovated or maintained. In these cases, responsibilities for mainte-
nance and preservation are weakly dened. In the following section, we
will describe our results about the potential of noria renovation, also
exploring whether power production might be a sustainable fourth
usage pattern of norias in the Ricote Valley.
4.3. Assessment of the potentials of noria renovation for a sustainable
agricultural system
By means of the procedure explained in the method section, it was
possible to re-construct the geometric dimensions and the pumping
characteristics of norias (number of blades, container dimensions,
speed, pumped ow and developed power). The Noria de la Hoya and
the Noria Grande de Abar´
an were the reference ones, because most of
their dimensions are known. The proposed methodology can be used in
general to estimate preliminary dimensions of any noria, as long as
diameter and width are known. This is the case for 15 norias (see
Table 2). In our calculations, if width and diameter of a given noria were
not known, the noria was not considered. Therefore, the following di-
mensions can be estimated, in general, knowing diameter and width:
number of paddles
immersed length of the paddles (m)
rotational speed (revolutions per minute, rpm)
dimensions of the container (width, depth, length, assuming to be a
cylinder with square cross section)
pumped ow rate (liters per second)
developed power (W)
4.3.1. Potential power production, emission mitigation, irrigated area, and
economic savings for noria renovation
In this section, we describe the procedures to estimate the power
production potential, emission mitigation, economic saving and irri-
gated area.
Power production: Table 2 shows that the power developed by the
norias is generally limited below 3 kW, with an average power of 1.5 kW
(in Table 2, the power is expressed in W instead of kW). The energy is
expressed in Wh (product of Watt and hours) or kWh dividing by 1000.
Based on this calculation, we estimate that 23.8 kW could be produced
with 16 renovated norias. Knowing the number of operating hours in
one year, the annual energy developed by the norias was estimated by
multiplying the power by the number of hours. We propose four sce-
narios to estimate the potential of norias. The assumed maximum po-
tential is 8760 h/year representing 24 working hours per day (100%).
But as more realistic numbers we propose 6570 h/year (75%), 4380 h/
year (50%), 2190 h/year (25%).
Emission mitigation: We estimated emissions potentially avoided by
using norias instead of diesel or electric pumps. A pump driven by a
diesel engine consumes 0.27 l for each developed kWh, and emits
2635 g of polluting substances (CO, CO
2
and PM
2.5
) per liter (Adhikari
et al., 2019). In Fig. 7, the tons of the above-mentioned polluting
emissions saved each year were expressed as a function of the pumped
ow rate. Considering the saved emissions of 16 norias, the annual saved
emissions were estimated between 37 and 148 tons, depending on the
Table 2
Characteristics, potential irrigated area and power production for each noria. Those with unknown width and diameter could not be entirely elaborated.
Name Estimated
construction
year
Height
(diameter)
(m)
Width
(m)
No. of
paddles
Irrigated
area
(hectares)
Lifted
ow (l/
s)
Rotational
speed (rpm)
No. of
containers
Power
(W)
Noria de la Hoya (de D. García) 1818 8.2 1.1 48 26.0 42.2 1.5 96 3397
Noria Grande de Abar´
an 1807 11.9 1.2 64 17.3 25.0 1.2 128 2923
Noria de Candel´
on 1850 6.0 0.5 40 1.0 12.4 1.8 80 728
Noria La ˜
Norica 1850 5.0 0.4 40 0.9 9.3 1.9 80 458
Noria y acueducto de F´
elix Cayetano 6.0 0.7 48 3.4 22.7 1.8 96 1335
Noria de la "Viuda de Don Juan de Teodoro" 8.2 0.4 56 1.8 6.3 1.5 112 505
Noria de Miguelico Nú˜
nez 8.2 0.4 56 0.4 6.3 1.5 112 505
Noria de Ribera 7.0 0.5 42 0.3 9.3 1.6 84 640
Noria del Olivar 8.5 0.7 48 3.4 20.2 1.5 96 1684
Noria de Dª Elisa Carrillo 4.8 0.3 44 5.9 2.0 88 276
Noria del Conde de Villa-Felices 9.0 0.6 56 0.4 12.9 1.4 112 1138
Noria de los Semolicas 10.0 0.6 60 5.3 11.6 1.4 120 1138
Noria del Otro Lao o Noria de D. Matías Martínez 4.5 0.8 48 16.8 35.5 2.0 96 1566
Noria de "Los Chirrinches" 1910 7.5 0.8 52 20.7 27.5 1.6 104 2023
Noria "La Tía Vicenta" 10.0 0.8 56 14.0 20.6 1.4 112 2023
Noria del Acebuche 12.2 74 14.5 29.0 3481
Fig. 7. Saved emissions per year versus the pumped ow based on 15 norias.
K. Heider et al.
Agricultural Water Management 259 (2022) 107240
8
working hours (see Table 3). In case of different numbers of working
hours, the obtained results from Fig. 7 scale proportionally. It must be
noted that the mitigated pollution estimated here must be interpreted
considering the additional benets that the use of a renovated noria can
generate, rather than a motivation to build a noria instead of using a
motor pump, since the choice of technology should also consider the
practical aspects of exibility, maintenance, installation and fabrication.
If electric pumps would be considered, the saved emissions would be
between 14 and 55 tons/year (Table 3), assuming that the electric pump
emissions are 265.5 gCO
2
/kWh (European Environment Agency, 2018).
The saved emissions of Noria Acebuche could not be estimated with the
methodology proposed in the method section, due to its unknown width.
Indeed, the width of the noria is used to estimate the container di-
mensions, as well as the pumped ow, and it has to be known. Therefore,
in case of unknown width, the pumped ow can be estimated by
inverting the equation proposed in Fig. 8 as a function of the irrigated
area.
For each noria, the irrigated area was known from ofcial data, so
that Fig. 8 shows the irrigated area versus the pumped ow. The higher
the pumped ow, the higher is the area that can be irrigated. We
calculated that 16 renovated norias could irrigate 140.3 ha saving be-
tween 14 and 148 tons of CO
2
per year compared to the usage of motor
pumps covering the same surface (see Table 3). The 140.3 ha represent
6.21% of the agricultural terraced land in the Ricote Valley (2259.72 ha)
based on an estimation from a previous study (Heider et al., 2021). It has
to be considered that approx. 40% of agricultural terraced land was
abandoned in 2019.
Economic savings and benets: The use of norias would offset the
cost of diesel by between 17,606 and 70,424
/year for the production of
23.8 kW (16 norias) of power for between 2190 and 8760 working
hours/year, based on the estimated need of 0.27 l of diesel per kWh and
on an estimated cost for diesel of 1.25
/l. In the case of electric pumps,
the use of norias would offset the cost of electricity by between 11,998
and 47,993
/year for the same production and working hours
mentioned above based on an estimated electricity cost of 0.23
/kWh
(Eurostat, 2021). Alternatively, if the norias would be deployed for
power production instead of water pumping and the produced elec-
tricity would be sold, we estimate a benet of between 2608 and 10,433
/year. This was calculated by multiplying the total power of 16 norias
by working hours by the energy price. The result is based on an esti-
mated price of 0.05
/ kWh paid by Spanish electricity companies to
private producers (Guijarro Ruiz, 2021). Such savings should be
factored in towards the maintenance of norias.
However, an initial investment is needed to obtain these services.
After this investment, a noria is likely able to sustain more than half of its
maintenance costs, only considering economic savings from diesel
consumption compared to engine-based technologies. Maintenance
costs of a noria add up to c. 5000
/year. Considering the average diesel
savings of 2750
/year, a noria could offset 55% of these costs. If a noria
is alternatively used to produce electricity instead of water pumping,
gains from selling energy could offset approx. 8% of its maintenance
costs. We estimate that these calculations will change in favor of norias
in the near future with increasing CO
2
prices.
Renovation costs depend on the individual preservation state of each
noria and have to be assessed by an expert individually. Therefore, we
discuss construction costs. The construction cost of a noria without
irrigation canals lies between 8000 and 15,000
per meter of diameter.
According to this, a noria with a height of 8 m costs between 64,000 and
120,000
, depending on the materials used. (The described construc-
tion and maintenance costs are based on personal communications with
Miguel ´
Angel Molina Espinosa, technical engineer specialized in hy-
draulic machines and norias).
4.4. Renovated norias as drivers of the multifunctionality of agriculture
Above, we have shown the potential of noria renovation. Renovating
norias can promote sustainable rural development and the multi-
functionality of agriculture (Cairol et al., 2009; IAASTD, 2009; Renting
et al., 2009) (Fig. 9). An increasing renovation of traditional irrigation
technologies like norias would contribute to lower the high energy de-
mand for pumping and mitigate emissions, helping to further approach
the EU emission targets. However, the potential of the norias in the
Ricote Valley for electricity production is limited due to their high
Table 3
Estimated potential benets summed up for 16 norias with known dimensions in the case of noria renovation in the Ricote Valley for four scenarios. The scenarios
represent seasonal variabilities of working hours.
Scenario
(hours)
Working
hours
Energy
(kWh)
Saved emissions diesel (t/
year)
Saved emissions electr. pump (t/
year)
Saved cost diesel
(
/year)
Saved cost electricity
(
/year)
100% 8760 208,663 148 55 70,424 47,993
75% 6570 156,497 111 42 52,818 35,994
50% 4380 104,332 74 28 35,212 23,996
25% 2190 52,166 37 14 17,606 11,998
Fig. 8. Irrigated area versus pumped ow based on 15 norias.
Fig. 9. Norias as drivers for the multifunctionality of agriculture combining
social (yellow), economic (orange), and ecological (green) needs. (For inter-
pretation of the references to colour in this gure legend, the reader is referred
to the web version of this article.)
K. Heider et al.
Agricultural Water Management 259 (2022) 107240
9
diameter and low rotational speed compared to modern water wheels
used for electricity generation. Nevertheless, we stress the multifunc-
tional character of the norias and the multiple positive services they can
provide if maintained. The norias in the Ricote Valley have been used to
lift irrigation water on the multiple levels of agricultural terraces,
contributing to food security. Some of them are still in use while also
being part of a popular touristic route (Ayuntamiento de Abar´
an, 2021).
Thus, norias contribute to recreation and tourism, to the aesthetics of a
cultural landscape, and represent a part of the local water culture. They
help to preserve traditional knowledge and create local employment.
Moreover, norias contribute to biodiversity by creating micro-habitats
for ora and fauna, e.g. water pools attracting birds, insects and pro-
moting plant growth (Freshwater Habitats Trust, 2021b).
5. Discussion
Our analysis has shown that 88% of the norias in the Ricote Valley
are currently not used and one of the most important reasons for the
deterioration mentioned by the experts was the introduction of new
technologies, especially motor pumps. Generally, motor pumps (diesel
or electric pumps) can be easily bought, are cheaper, handier, of easy
transport and easy adaptation on different sites, while high diameter
water wheels are more complex in requirements, construction, and
maintenance. Nevertheless, the renovation of norias provides important
social, ecological, and economic services like irrigation without using
fuel or electricity (emission mitigation), valorization of cultural heritage
and social attractiveness.
In the Ricote Valley, mainly surface water (Segura River, El Molino
spring, etc.) is used for irrigation representing relatively low energy
consumption for water acquisition compared to groundwater extraction,
external water transfer or desalination (Soto-García et al., 2013).
However, energy is needed for water elevation on the different levels of
the agricultural sectors within the valley. Since the 1970s boreholes
substituted traditional norias using mostly diesel pumps (Closas, 2014).
Until today diesel pumps and electric engines are mainly used for the
provision of irrigation water including extraction and transport on
different elevations (Espinosa-Tas´
on et al., 2020).
A similar trajectory of abandonment to that described for the norias
in the Ricote Valley, has been observed for water mills across Europe and
beyond. This trend is alarming, considering the high cultural and his-
torical value of norias and water mills. Exploring their history and po-
tential seems fundamental not only for better understanding the past,
but also in dening innovative sustainable strategies for the future of
agriculture, tourism and rural communities worldwide. The trend seems
set, but needs to be consolidated, as many water wheel sites are expe-
riencing a revival, both for electricity generation and thanks to a deeper
understanding of their cultural value (Quaranta and Revelli, 2018).
The expert survey has shown that all experts considered the preser-
vation of norias in the Ricote Valley important, including experts from
the local irrigators communities. Furthermore, local associations, like
the cultural association La Carraila, are active in the protection and
recuperation of the cultural heritage in the Ricote Valley (i.e. norias).
However, the maintenance of several norias poses some challenge, due
for example to different ownership regimes. Some of them are owned by
irrigators communities, others by a group of private individuals, and
others by a single owner. Therefore, exible coordination, cooperation
and nancial support is needed.
Based on our assessment, we estimate that 16 renovated norias
included in our analysis can irrigate 140.3 ha in the Ricote Valley. To
irrigate a similar surface applying diesel motor pumps would cost be-
tween 17,606 and 70,424
/year for the consumption of between 14,085
and 56,339 l diesel/year and produce between 37 and 148 tons of
emissions/year depending on the working hours. In the case of electric
pumps, we estimate that between 11,998 and 47,993
/year of elec-
tricity costs can be saved as well as between 14 and 55 tons of emissions/
year. Therefore, renovation and re-use of traditional irrigation
technologies could help to reduce the high energy demand and the
resulting emissions of irrigation systems in the Mediterranean region
and beyond.
Moreover, our results show that 16 renovated norias in the Ricote
Valley could produce 23.8 kW. Modern water wheels used in the same
context could be more efcient and less expensive. It must be noted that
the achievable power in owing river contexts (i.e. by exploiting the
river kinetic energy) is generally limited (Quaranta, 2018), while low
head sites are more attractive. Indeed, water wheels can be considered
optimal machines to generate electricity, typicall in head sites below
6 m and river ows below 1 mc/s per metre width (Quaranta, 2020).
They generally work with 70% efciency, but only if adequately
designed to operate in that context. Based on our analysis, the re-use of a
noria to generate electricity in the context of this study is feasible, but
comes along with several disadvantages: (1) the power developed by a
noria in the Ricote Valley is below 3 kW, and 1.5 kW on average; (2)
they are designed to lift water, not to generate electricity, thus their
efciency is lower when used for electricity generation; (3) their rota-
tional speed is very low due to the large diameter (2 rpm), thus, a large
gearbox would be needed, including additional power losses and costs,
with an efciency decrease. Therefore, the average power value may
further reduce. However, if modern stream water wheels (Quaranta,
2018) were used for electricity generation, replacing the norias, it is
expected that the developed power would be higher than that estimated
for the norias in this study. An additional study would be needed to
better investigate this option, since the site characteristics have to be
explored in detail. Therefore, we understand the usage of norias for
power production as an additional opportunity adding up to its
multifunctionality.
As we have shown, power production may not be viable as a stand-
alone solution for the norias in the Ricote Valley, but their role as
drivers for a multifunctional agriculture becomes clear by considering
all the quantitative advantages of using water wheels compared to en-
gines shown in this study: (1) lower emissions, (2) land irrigated, (3)
diesel and electricity savings, (4) energy production. Their deployment
would reduce the high energy demand and emissions in the Spanish
irrigation system, while also enabling economic savings and benets. On
top of that are all the qualitative advantages like (5) shaping the local
cultural landscape while also (6) providing areas for recreation and (7)
preserving the local water culture (Gil Meseguer, 2014), (8) creating
water-rich micro-habitats that support biodiversity in agriculture as well
as (9) attracting an increasing number of external visitors and (10)
public support for heritage protection. This includes the two most
valued agroecosystem services in the Region of Murcia: biodiversity and
recreation opportunities (Zabala et al., 2021). Nevertheless, we must
consider that overall construction, installation and operational costs
would be higher than for diesel or electric pumps.
Finally, we want to stress that global agriculture must transform in
order to address major challenges like reducing emissions, reversing
biodiversity loss, adapting to and mitigating climate change, and ac-
commodating population growth and migrant communities. Foley et al.
(2011) suggest four global strategies addressing these challenges: 1)
stopping the expansion of agriculture, 2) closing yield gaps, 3)
increasing resource efciency, 4) changing to a plant-based diet and
stopping food waste (Foley et al., 2011). Increasing resource efciency
includes an increasing irrigation efciency. Especially, in water-scare
regions like the study area, good water and land management prac-
tices can increase irrigation efciency. Agroecology provides principles
and practices for a sustainable management of agroecosystems (Altieri
and Nicholls, 2012; Bernard and Lux, 2017; De Leijster et al., 2019;
Pretty, 2018). For example, reducing water losses through mulching,
cover crops and reduced tillage will increase irrigation efciency.
Beyond that, adapting to local climate conditions or climate warming by
cultivating locally adapted crops would reduce irrigation needs even
more (Martin-Gorriz et al., 2021).
The dominant crop in the Ricote Valley is lemon. The cultivation of
K. Heider et al.
Agricultural Water Management 259 (2022) 107240
10
lemon trees sequesters more carbon than other woody crops or vegeta-
bles (Martin-Gorriz et al., 2021) and is less exigent in irrigation than the
cultivation of vegetables because it is better adapted to water stress due
to irregularities in water supply (Confederaci´
on Hidrogr´
aca del Segura,
2013). Nevertheless, the cultivation of better adapted crops like olive
and almond trees could reduce irrigation even further. Furthermore, we
stress the importance of crop diversication due to its multiple benets
for biodiversity, water ltration, water retention, and resilience. How-
ever, the selection of crops is highly inuenced by the market price and
farmers have to earn their livelihood. Prices for locally adapted crops
like almond and olive are low compared to more water-demanding crops
like lemon.
6. Conclusion
In this study, we investigated the location and preservation state of
norias in the Ricote Valley, explored the reasons for their deterioration
during the past decades, and assessed the potential of their renovation.
We observed high rates of noria abandonment and deterioration in the
Ricote Valley: Only 12% of the norias are still used to lift irrigation
water, 54% are conserved, 17% are destroyed, and another 17% have
disappeared. The most important reasons for the deterioration of norias
in the Ricote Valley are 1) the use of new technologies, in particular,
motor pumps have replaced norias during the last decades; 2) the lack of
valorization for traditional technologies, which combined with 3) high
maintenance costs for noria preservation has further contributed to their
deterioration; and 4) urbanization and the expansion of infrastructures
that led to the displacement of agricultural activities, such that norias,
located on what used to be agricultural terraces, are now disconnected
from their original context.
Based on our results, we argue that rediscovering traditional tech-
nologies helps to achieve affordable and clean energy (SDG 7) as well as
climate action to reduce GHG emissions (SDG 13). Moreover, these
technologies provide multiple functions and services for a sustainable
life on land (SDG 15), which needs to be considered within a holistic
approach instead of only concentrating on new technologies.
To assess the potential of noria renovation, we proposed four sce-
narios, which represent different working regimes, due to seasonal
variabilities: a full year, with 8760 h/year (100%), 6570 h/year (75%, i.
e. 9 months), 4380 h/year (50%, 6 months), and 2190 h/year (25%, 3
months). Based on these scenarios, 16 norias would produce the
following benets if they would replace diesel motor pumps: 16 norias
could mitigate between 37 and 148 tons of emissions/year as well as
between 18,000 and 70,000
/year spent on 14,00056,000 l diesel. If
they would replace electric motor pumps, 16 norias would produce the
following benets: 16 norias could save between 14 and 55 tons of
emissions/year and between 12,000 and 48,000
/year spent on elec-
tricity. Both types of engine are currently used to lift irrigation water on
the elevated agricultural terraces. Such savings should be factored in
towards the maintenance of norias. Finally, we estimated that 16
renovated norias could produce 23.8 kW and 1.5 kW on average. The
main reasons for the limited power production potential are: the large
diameter resulting in very low rotational speed (2 rpm), as well as their
design optimized to lift water, which results in a lower efciency when
used for electricity generation. However, we estimated that norias
deployed for power production could produce benets of between 2600
and 10,400
/year if the generated electricity were sold.
Our study is limited by the availability of data. We integrated four
scenarios to cover variabilities in the working hours of norias. Further-
more, cost offsets are based on current fuel and electricity prices, rather
than subsidized prices. We estimate that these costs will change in favor
of norias in the near future with increasing CO
2
prices. We recommend
renovation, but renovation costs depend on the individual preservation
state of each noria and have to be assessed case-by-case by an expert.
Therefore, at this stage, we approached these numbers by estimated
construction costs.
Finally, we recommend the integrated preservation of norias in the
Ricote Valley and beyond, stressing their role as drivers for a multi-
functional agriculture. We argue that norias are much more than water-
lifting devices. Noria renovation in agricultural landscapes could pro-
duce highly valued social, ecological, and economic services compared
to engine-based solutions, as we have shown for the Ricote Valley. Apart
from their potential to mitigate emissions, norias create freshwater
micro-habitats for ora and fauna, contributing to increase biodiversity
in agriculture. Furthermore, they shape the cultural landscape and
preserve the local water culture while providing recreation opportu-
nities for locals and tourists. Further research is needed to quantify these
services, and we will continue our research on multifunctional agricul-
ture, exploring the potential of agroecological practices in Spain.
Declaration of Competing Interest
The authors declare that they have no known competing nancial
interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to inuence
the work reported in this paper.
Acknowledgments
We thank the experts for participating in our survey and the mem-
bers of the association La Carraila in Abar´
an for their support during our
research and their effort for the preservation of norias in the Ricote
Valley. This research was funded by Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation (FES,
Germany) and partly supported by the CLICCS Cluster of Excellence
(Grant ID: 2037) funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).
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This study describes the evolution of the Spanish irrigated sector and focuses on water abstraction, water consumption, and energy use in the period 1950–2017. The analysis shows evidence of the basins reaching closure state and the impact on energy use from irrigation supply. The response in the context of an increasing water demand with a limited supply has been investment in water-saving and conservation technologies (WSCT) with the transformation of furrow-irrigated areas into those of drip and sprinkler, resulting in an increase in irrigation efficiency. The effect of this policy implies an increase in energy use by a factor of six in the period while the irrigated area triples and its water use doubles in the same period. Water abstraction reaches its peak in the year 2004 and decreases slightly as a consequence of subsidies to WSCT. The impact on energy consumption in pumping and treatment illustrates the water-energy nexus in Spain’s agriculture and the change in the water policy paradigm from supply augmentation towards demand management.
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There is an increasing body of studies that show that land use intensification and homogenisation in agriculture landscapes, aimed at increasing food provisioning, decline other ecosystem services. Agroecological management has been proposed as an alternative to conventional agricultural management because of its presumed capacity to rehabilitate degraded ecosystem services. In this study we tested whether the agroecological principles of minimum mechanical soil disturbance, maintaining understory cover and application of organic amendments can improve the provisioning of ecosystem services and whether bundles of ecosystem services emerged. We experimentally implemented no-tillage (NT), green manure (GM), compost (CM) and conventional tillage (CT) as a control in five almond orchards in southeastern Spain and monitored nutrient cycling, carbon stock, habitat provisioning, food provisioning, pest control and pollination after one year. We found that CM and NT had a higher overall ecosystem service performance than CT, and that GM did not differ from CT. The treatments significantly improved ecosystem services such as nutrient cycling, carbon stock, habitat provisioning and food provisioning, but not pest control and pollination. CM treatment resulted in higher soil enzyme activity (glucosidase and phosphatase), soil nutrient content (total N and extractable K), leaf nutrient content (P and K concentrations), soil organic carbon (SOC) content and almond kernel weight compared to other treatments. GM treatment resulted in higher phosphatase activity, understory carbon content and more understory cover than CT. NT treatment resulted in higher glucosidase, phosphatase and urease activity, understory plant diversity and more understory cover than CT. We also found an emerging bundle between SOC and soil enzyme activity and between individual almond weight and soil nutrient levels and SOC. This study shows that ecosystem services can rehabilitate rather quickly, given the one-year time frame of the study. Further, each agroecological practice may enhance a specific set of ecosystem services.