How Can Traditional Watering Systems Help The Environment?

Diana Martins, Daniela Silva, Mariana Veloso, Beatriz Vale, Bruna Andrade, Jelena Popović, Jelena Dedić, Jovana Tomić, Anja Marović and Elda Fetić, 15-18 years old | International Collaboration

In Portugal and Montenegro the recovery of traditional watering systems can take part as a strategy to adapt the planet to climate change.

Nowadays, we are witnessing the modernization of technology when it comes to making our lives easier, but what is the impact of these improvements on the environment? People are not aware that human activities are the major cause of climate change. With this being said, modernization intensifies the effect of climate emergency, leading to the gradual disappearance of green areas necessary for oxygen production, increasing air pollution and the disappearance of water as a source of life.

Modern irrigation systems greatly increase the quality of crop production but also the cost of investment, and additional drought requires additional costs. In addition to traditional methods of irrigation, we can also use some ecological models, such as drip, irrigation using plastic bottles. This method of irrigation has multiple advantages such as reducing financial costs, safe usage, plastic recycling, easy to handle, rational watering, reduced grass growth, and at the same time reducing the effects of climate change. (1)

In Famalicão, with the main goal of dissipating a future lack of water in subtract we intend to recuperate old watering systems. Supported in a study that was conducted by students at D. Sancho I school about traditional watering systems, that contributed to the proposal of the project “LIFE Pateiras – Natural Adapt 4 Rural Areas” that was presented to the European Union by the county of Vila Nova de Famalicão. The data that was collected by these students, in video (2), demonstrates that the Traditional Watering Systems take part as highly interesting structures not only when it comes to preserve and recover ecosystems but also regarding the accumulation of water reserves that could disclose as indispensable to agriculture in a climate change scenario. (3).

These conventional watering systems perform without the necessity of any energetic cost because they “hold“ the water in higher parts of the subtract so that by the action of gravity the water is distributed evenly by the land, with no need of an engine to “pull“ the water up. (4)

           After, in a meeting with Dr. Vasco Cruz, responsible for the project LIFE we came to realize that the main goal of the project is to adapt the territory to climate change, and this is going to come to life in three actions. One of them falls exactly on the role of traditional irrigation systems, where the construction of a puddle and the recovery of two tanks is foreseen. Another action focuses on adapting the existing systems to modern agriculture with the construction of a phyto-WWTP, which is intended to recover part of the effluent from the Agra WWTP, located in the parish of Fradelos, Vila Nova De Famalicão. As a result, the effluent that was discharged into the river is now reused, in the process of irrigation by farmers. This reduces the need to collect groundwater.

Apart from this, it is also desirable to recuperate aquatic habitats that were target of landfill. A place where the intention is to remove the remains of works that have been deposited during the last decades. This action will allow the recovery of wetlands, more precisely alluvial forests, which accumulate water when it rains and, therefore, water seeps into the soil, preventing the occurrence of floods in the lower areas of the territory and, at the same time, accumulates water on the ground. Never forgetting that, with the restoration of a set of habitats, the preservation of biodiversity emerges, something that is a priority for the European Union.

Water puddle in Fradelos (the accumulated water is used to water the agricultural cultures and, at the same time, it is a great aquatic ecosystem, in contribution to the preservation of biodiversity) (photo by Daniela Silva)

Finally, the recovery of a small section of the Fradelos stream is expected, increasing the capacity of the stream channel and allowing the development of a ricicola gallery, trying to reduce the occurrence of floods upstream and their impact by decreasing water speed.

           This problem can also be seen in Montenegro. When asked about the effects of climate change on agricultural production, farmer Ivan said: “My crops were destroyed last year after an unexpected hail. Floods made a damage on my land at least couple of times during the year and the dry season requires additional irrigation.” The real treasure was the possession of a pit with drinking water. The groundwater from the pit is from far better quality than water from surface streams because they do not need to be processed. However, the higher soil and air pollution, the water quality changes. According to Dejan Milunovic, an engineer of agriculture and animal husbandry, the main reason is the lack of permanent springs and watercourses as well as the uneven distribution of precipitation.

           Regarding this, the Government subsidizes the construction of stone/concrete reservoirs for rainwater collection as well as the reconstruction and putting into function of old and dilapidated stone reservoirs that were built a long time ago, just as it happens to be done in Famalicão. (6)

Although Montenegro is just beginning to take measures and strategies to reduce the impact of climate change in the Department of Agriculture, some changes are needed to reduce future concerns. In short, we will make a great contribution to returning to traditional methods of irrigation with a slight modernization at the same time, as well as the application of ecological methods of irrigation. (7)

           In the same way, the Project LIFE is inserted in the future municipal strategy to adapt to climate changes, and as Dr. Vasco said: “… it emphasizes wetlands as a source of drinking water, encouraging actions that contribute to their restoration and prevent their destruction” and contributes to the adaptation of the territory to the consequences of climate change.

Vila Nova de Famalicão ambition is to contribute to a more sustainable and planet-friendly future. Targeting the protection of the environment and the reduction of the ecological footprint, safeguarding the planet for new generations and it is precisely here that this new project is inserted. (8)




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