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Consortia as a participatory water management system for sustainable development
in the Plain of Sybaris, Italy

The reaction to the environmental threats posed in the Sybaris valley has led to the birth of networks of farmers and informal groups who promote organic farming methods and act to protect the biodiversity, the environment and the ecosystem, in opposition to the industrialisation of agriculture.      

A local and democratic answer is also represented by the Consortium of Reclamation. With the establishment of these Consortia, a new political phase and management of the territory has started in the Seventies, aimed at giving an immediate response, in terms of development and quality of services. It provides the possibility of a democratic interaction and a transparent management in the interest of consortium members and all local communities.

Actually, the tradition of a participatory approach in irrigated agriculture is of long history and great relevance in many parts of Italy, although it is of particular significance in its South, where agricultural production together with tourism represent the major wheels of economy.

Consortia systems represent a democratic way of managing territories and common goods by local communities, aimed at giving an immediate response, in terms of development and quality of services. It provides the possibility of a transparent management in the interest of all local communities, in order to protect the environment and the ecosystem, with special attention to the preservation of water resources.

Moreover, the reaction to the industrialisation of agriculture and the spread of extensive crops has led to the birth of a network of farmers and informal groups, for instance local buying groups (GAS, Gruppi di Acquisto Solidale), who promote organic farming methods, a closer relation between producers and consumers and the preservation of biodiversity.

In particular, in recent years these groups promoted in the Province of Cosenza the recovery of ancient seeds and ancient grains traditionally grown in this area, for example, the wheat “Cappelli” and the soft wheats “Generoso” and “Maiorca”. This also means the return to natural methods of baking, pasta-making and traditional cooking.

The main consortia of this area are three:

  1. Consortium LAO
    The Reclamation Consortium of Lao and Tyrrhenian Basins administers an area of 55,391 hectares, and involves 30 municipalities, in the Province of Cosenza.
    Areas equipped for irrigation are 4,560 hectares (8% of the total administered), while those irrigated by the Consortium are 2,980 hectares (5% of the total administered).
    Fourteen irrigation districts depend on this Consortium. The one known as Sx Lao has an equipped area of 1,000 hectares; the other ones have an area of less than 500 hectares. The sources of the Consortium are represented almost exclusively by surface crosses on the watercourses of the rivers Lao, Argentino, Abatemarco, Corvino, Soleo, Deuda and Pesce. The overall water availability is 10 Mm3.
    The 99% of the consortium’s primary and secondary supply networks, which amount to 129 km, is made of pressure pipelines; only 1 km consists of gallery channels.
    In general, the network consortium, compared to other ones, is sufficiently refurbished by the river Lao, even if it needs frequent maintenance. As in all other consortia, water supply is not computerized and margins for the rationalisation of resource consumption are high.

 

  1. Consortium of Pollino
    The Reclamation Consortium of Pollino administers an area of 90,623 hectares and manages the irrigation of an equipped area which amounted to 2,315 hectares (2.55% of the total administered). From the hydrographic point of view, the area encompasses within its territory the high basins of the Lao, Coscile, Raganello, Satanasso (only to the right side) and Esaro, for a small part.
    In the basin of the river Lao, 10 irrigation systems were made by the Consortium, all functioning, and other 4 irrigation systems are planned, but not yet funded. In total, the topographic surface amounts to 2.217 hectares, while the equipped surface represents approximately 1.595 hectares. In addition, other 100 hectares, achieved with recent network extensions, must be added.
    In the basin of Coscile, three irrigation systems were made. Two of them are gravity systems (Matinazza, with a net irrigable area of 320 hectares, and Porcello in the town of Morano Calabro, with 200 irrigable hectares) and one is a lifting system (Pietà, in the territory of Castrovillari, with a net irrigable area of 200 hectares) with an installed capacity of 120 kw. Three executive projects have been prepared for other plants.
    The basin of the Raganello also includes the right slope of the Torrente Satanasso, which marks the extreme Eastern border of the district. The area falls within a single irrigation system, currently under construction, which will replace the old distribution network channels from pressurized lines. The project collection will be provided by the torrent Raganello and will allow the irrigation of about 168 hectares.

 

  1. Consortium of Sybaris and Media Crati Valley
    The District of the Consortium of Reclamation of the Plain of Sybaris and Middle Crati Valley is particularly large: it includes a total area of about 146,806 hectares and it is one of the largest consortia in Italy. It occupies almost entirely the Ionic coast of the province of Cosenza. Its constitution took several stages.
    Its facilities are identified and divided into 6 irrigation districts, for a total of 27,223 equipped hectares. The water supply comes from rivers and reservoirs: Coscile, Esaro (Dam), Crati (Dam Tarsia), Cino, Mucone (tank), Mavigliano. The two main reservoirs are:
    - Serbatoio di Tarsia (Tarsia tank), fed by the basin of the river Crati and determined by the damming built by the Consortium on the river Crati in "Strette di Tarsia", at an altitude of 49 m above sea level. The volume of overrun is 16 Mm3 and the one regulated by irrigation period is approximately 75 Mm3.
    -  Dam on the Esaro river, in "Farneto del Principe". The dam is still at an experimental stage, and the final possessed volume will be of 38.85 Mm3, and only 21 Mm3 of them will be reserved for irrigation.
    The overall availability of water resources for irrigation calculated for the Consortium is 365 Mm3.