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In 2021, Alpiq and the Association of Concession-Granting Municipalities of Valais (ACC) awarded the #prixalpiq to the 'Erneuerung Gesamt-Bewässerung Salgesch' project, conceived jointly by Salgesch municipality and the engineering firm Cordonier & Rey SA. This project aims to renew Salgesch’s entire irrigation system in order to reduce water consumption by local agriculture and the municipality by up to 40%. The CHF 40,000 #prixalpiq prize money was used to set up a pilot project. Two similar vineyard plots belonging to the bourgeoisie were equipped with a new drop-by-drop irrigation system as well as equipment measuring in real-time soil humidity and the health of plants. One of the plots was also provided with a resonance-based water treatment technology developed by the Valais company AQUA4D, the aim being to compare the results with and without this technology.
Amédée Murisier, Head Hydropower Generation at Alpiq, is extremely pleased about the outcome of the award-winning project: 'We’re thrilled that the #prixalpiq has enabled Salgesch municipality to conduct this project. The municipality has been exemplary and the tools being tested will enable the development of best practices for responsible water management elsewhere in Switzerland.'
Within the framework of the pilot project, the irrigation of two vineyard plots was piloted based on the information collected by sensors measuring in real-time soil humidity as well as the water stress experienced by the plants themselves. In addition, drone surveillance measured the health, cover and foliage volume as well as the vines’ development.
The collection of real-time data is one of the key elements of the project. This data provides the municipality and farmers with factual data on the state of the plants and thus enables them to optimise both the duration and the quantity of irrigation. This transparency alone has already reduced water consumption.
What’s more, compared to traditional watering practices, a drop-by-drop system allows the amount of water required for irrigation to be cut by 20%. According to the results available after a year of testing, the AQUA4D technology can slash the water volumes by a further 20%, all while keeping the vines in similar health and ensuring the same quantity and quality harvests. 'Our innovative water treatment technology structures water at a molecular level to improve the hydration of minerals, which allows plants to better absorb water and nutrients. All soil types can thus hold more water. When combined with other agricultural technologies, this can almost halve the volume of water required for irrigation,' explains Walter Thut, who leads the pilot project within AQUA4D.
In an effort to consolidate the results obtained over the course of 2022 and especially to better define which of the results were genuinely produced by the tools put in place and which were influenced by momentary meteorological conditions, Salgesch municipality has decided to continue the project in 2023. Salgesch Mayor Gilles Florey is looking even further into the future: 'Water was never a resource to be taken for granted. But due to climate change, it is now more important than ever to improve water management and reduce consumption. This pilot project enables us to test which tools and technologies are the most suitable. This type of action to improve the management of water will be essential with a view to realising a larger-scale undertaking: the Lienne-Raspille intermunicipal water storage and distribution project.'
Further information on Salgesch municipality can be found at www.salgesch-gemeinde.ch
Further information on Alpiq can be found at www.alpiq.com
Further information on AQUA4D can be found at www.aqua4d.com
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