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PLEIADeS (Participatory multi-Level EO-assisted tools for Irrigation water management and Agricultural Decision-Support) is a research and technological development project co-funded by the European Commission's Sixth Framework Programme within its Sustainable Development, Global Change and Ecosystems Priority. The project responds to the identified need for targeted research in the area of “Integrated management strategies and mitigation technologies, topic Water in Agriculture: new systems and technologies for irrigation and drainage”.

The overall goal of PLEIADeS is 

To improve and optimise irrigation and drainage systems by means of new technologies.

In this context, New Technologies (NT) include Earth observation, Geographical Information Systems, Information and Communication Technologies, and Decision-Support systems.

In order to achieve this overall goal four specific objectives have been set:

  1. Benchmarking case studies. PLEIADeS aims to assess the technical, economic, social and environmental performance of irrigation systems in nine pilot case studies from around the world.

  2. Tools based on new technologies (NT). In accordance with the identified needs of stakeholders, multi-level NT-assisted tools will be adapted and developed for farmers and other water managers to optimise their water use at farm, irrigation scheme and at river-basin levels.

  3. To conduct trial campaigns in pilot areas with the active participation of users at farm and irrigation scheme level.

  4. To evaluate the performances of the NT-assisted tools using an extended evaluation system covering technical, economic, environmental, social and political dimensions and involving stakeholders at all levels over the whole lifetime of the project..

The scale of main interests is the irrigation scheme, with uplink to the river-basin and downlink to the farm level.

To plan and manage the project, PLEIADeS is organised into nine work packages related to research and innovation and one work package for project management (diagram   of relation between work packages):

WP1 Stakeholders and their environment, which includes the efforts made in all nine pilot areas to identify stakeholders and to characterise their irrigation practices and their requirements. 

WP2 SPIDER (System of Participatory Information, Decision-Support and Expert Knowledge for irrigation and River-basin water management). This WP brings together all the contributions from the PLEIADeS team towards the creation of SPIDER. This decision-support system will provide a multi-level interactive tool for irrigation and water management connecting farms, irrigation schemes and river-basins.

WP3 EO technology for irrigation water control and management. This work package will adapt EO (Earth Observation) methodologies for use in operational irrigation water management. This includes the quantification of the levels of accuracy of different techniques, reduction of the errors or uncertainties where possible and the identification of their ranges of applicability in order to then make these techniques operational.

WP4 Optimisation of irrigation systems. This work package groups together the efforts made at a number of the pilot sites to assess the performance of the irrigation schemes, including benchmarking, and to improve the management of these schemes.

WP5 Environmental efficiency. In parallel to WP4, WP6 and WP7, this work package first defines a framework for assessment and then assesses the environmental performance of the irrigation schemes in all nine pilot areas.

WP6 Socio-economic efficiency. Like WP 5, this work package applies a multicriterion approach to the assessment of alternative irrigation schemes in which economic analysis is combined with environmental, social and technical aspects.

WP7 Impact of external drivers. This work package assesses the impact of climate change and changing agricultural, environmental and rural development policies on the management of water resources and irrigation.

WP8 Case studies participatory evaluation with stakeholders. This work package pulls together the results from all pilot areas to evaluate through a participatory process the performance of new technologies in irrigation water management. As well as identifying success stories the work package will also derive local good practice and make recommendations for optimisation of schemes in a range of conditions.

WP9 Dissemination and community. A specific work package will help to ensure a coordinated and proactive approach to the dissemination of the Project's results and will also have the aim of creating a wider community of stakeholders with interests in the application of NT-assisted tools in irrigation water management beyond our nine pilot sites.

WP0 Project Management. The coordinating partner of the Project has created a project office which is responsible for ensuring fluid communications and collaboration between the consortium members, monitoring progress, and identifying and resolving problems should they arise so that the many work packages may effectively progress towards their goals in all the pilot areas.

PLEIADeS aims to demonstrate that New Technologies (NT) can effectively support the opitimisation of irrigation schemes and in the long run foster sustainability by providing comprehensive and timely spatial information that supports decisions made at many levels: farms, irrigation schemes and river-basins. 

PLEIADeS recognises that improvements will come not only from technical innovations but also from changes in social factors related to water governance, participation and social learning. Thus the NT-assisted tools of PLEIADeS will be deployed to facilitate technical and social learning enabling farmers to act responsibly by fine tuning their on-farm practices in accordance with the river-basin water status. 

The synergy between technology and participation works in both directions: the NT tools open the door to stakeholders at all levels whilst the active participation of these stakeholders will help to ensure that the tools developed respond to real needs and will provide the right information in the form and at the time that they are most needed.



PLEIADeS builds on previous EU and national projects: 



AGRASER (national Mexican project)

ERMOT (Spanish 10 year public-private partnership)


MONIDRI  ( Italian national project) 

It shares part of pilot áreas of NeWater  and Aquastress  

PLEIADeS has identified several horizontal issues which cut across all the research and development activities of the Project. In each of these areas, the PLEIADeS consortium has unanimously adopted an overarching policy and appointed a horizontal issues manager to oversee the development of the appropriate mechanisms to make sure that the project and the consortium follow a coherent approach.

Ethical issues

The tools developed by PLEADeS are intended to benefit all stakeholders, but it is recognized that they could potentially reinforce social inequalities if used inappropriately. To guard against this, the project consortium continuously reviews the application of the project tools and their transfer to third parties to ensure compatibility with relevant European Union rural development and international cooperation goals.

Gender mainstreaming

Gender issues are relevant in PLEIADeS in several ways, all of which are addressed in the Gender Action Plan. Water management and Information and Communication Technologies have a significant gender dimension.

Firstly, water management and agriculture have a significant gender dimension, in particular in less industrialized countries. In our Latin American pilot areas, the industrial farms are largely owned by men, while many subsistence farmers are women. Our work will address the needs of both female and male stakeholders and will take into account gender-specific ways to deal with technological tools, knowledge and information products in the development of these. Integrated Water Resources Management includes per definition the consideration of gender. Many studies have shown that:

  • Involving both women and men in integrated water resources initiatives can increase project effectiveness; 

  • Using a gender perspective and ensuring women's involvement can support environmental sustainability;

  • Without specific attention to gender issues, projects can reinforce inequalities and even increase imbalances.

Secondly, New Technologies (NT) can have a significant gender bias (’toys for boys ‘). This aspect will be addressed in the assessment of existing or potential NT bias towards selected social groups (part of WP6/8).

PLEIADeS addresses this by actively pursuing gender mainstreaming in all technical workpackages. The Gender Action Plan also provides the overall gender equality approach of the project and the initial guidelines of how to achieve an effective gender balance through positive actions. 

In particular, the project will promote the UN and EU guiding principles on gender equality in every aspect of its application.  This means that the consortium will address the gender imbalance that is currently prevailing in the research world of the academia with actions that show an effective increase of women researchers. At the same time it will also ensure that rural women in the case study areas will contribute to the research process in the stakeholder workshops and also benefit from the use of new technologies through training. 

The Gender Working Group has been constituted. Its composition reflects a careful balance between women and men, technical disciplines, and pilot areas.

Quality and environmental management

The PLEIADeS consortium has a policy of continuous improvement of the quality of the outputs of the project and the continuous reduction of the environmental impacts of the project activities. The project Quality and Environmental Management System is based on a simplified version of ISO 9001 and 14001 standards. All project outputs are subject to internal peer review whilst quality and environmental impact are reviewed annually.

Training and education

PLEIADeS provides an opportunity to intensify the already ongoing exchange of students and scientists, in particular through a special mechanism for exchange of personnel. South-south exchange is especially encouraged. In the context of the dissemination workpackage (WP9) strategies for developing a training and education program will be outlined, possibly including new university curricula, aiming at forming a new generation of interdisciplinary water managers.

Knowledge management

The approach follows the principles and techniques of Organic Knowledge Management. The coordinator acts to provide space, structures and opportunities for identifying and consolidating knowledge obtained through the project and to provide the incentives to encourage those patterns that emerge during the project that benefit the learning process.