G-EAU “Water management, actors, territories ”, a new member unit of #DigitAg

The joint research unit G-EAU (Water management, actors, territories) is one of the four new joint research units to have joined #DigitAg in September 2018. Located in Montpellier on the Lavalette campus, along with expatriate scientists, it brings together teams from AgroParisTech, CIRAD, IRD, IRSTEA, Montpellier SupAgro, the University of Montpellier, and soon BRGM. Olivier Barreteau, its Director, presents its multidisciplinary research.


Which disciplines are represented by G-EAU and its expertise?

The joint research unit has expertise in all water uses and relations with society: irrigation, flooding, drinking water, sanitation. Pollution issues are also represented to some extent. For these different uses, we look at issues of governance, biophysical processes and watershed management.

Our scientific expertise is highly multidisciplinary: agronomy, computer science/modelling, social sciences (economics, sociology, political sciences, anthropology), hydrology, hydraulics and fluid mechanics are all represented in the unit, as well as competence in participation (methods). This expertise is applied to water issues, sometimes at the territorial level, including coastal zones (planning of territories in which water plays a key role).


What does G-EAU bring to #DigitAg?


G-EAU provides #DigitAg with its expertise in public policy design and analysis, decision support in a context of access to big data on water, and increased demand for participatory methods.



The teams involved in this are, in the human and social sciences, the “Participation and decision-making” team (Nils Ferrand, Sylvie Morardet, Julien Burte ). Bruno Bonté and Géraldine Abrami are also involved in computer science and modelling for the representation of data use.


Moreover, the whole of the G-EAU joint research unit is involved in the IM2E scientific interest group (Montpellier Institute for Water and Environment) and the MUSE Key Initiative [a1] WATERS at Montpellier University of Excellence. The team under Gilles Belaud and the PRESTI platform, coordinated by Bruno Molle, contribute to it for digital agriculture in irrigation.


Do you have ongoing partnerships with the other #DigitAg units, and results?

We have formed several partnerships with the TETIS and Green units, as well as with AGIR, System and other units at INRA.

Examples concerning digital technologies:

  • with TETIS, a joint thesis on the importance of information sharing for water governance (Nicolas Paget, 2016 “Facing threats by sharing information for renewable natural resources management”);
  • with Green and CEE-M (formerly LAMETA), research on transfers of vulnerability to risks (flooding, drought, loss of agricultural land, etc.) in coastal zones;
  • with AGIR and CEE-M, joint [a1] thesis juries;
  • with System and LEPSE, ongoing experiments on agrophotovoltaics (project with the company Sun’R).

We also work with other member units of #DigitAg, outside the scope of #DigitAg. These projects include, with ITAP, irrigation experiments (sprinkling, reuse and sensors), with MISTEA, modelling to optimise irrigation (including waste water reuse), and outside the digital field, G-EAU-ITAP research on non-point pollution (pesticides in viticulture).


In the context of participatory governance, we can cooperate on information sharing.


What is your view of digital agriculture?

I see two different scales:

  • at the individual farm level, the plot for resource management. This means acting effectively (sensors) to improve the use of scarce and expensive resources such as water;
  • at the territorial level, it is necessary to increase visibility on flows, water and other flows such as wealth, and to increase visibility on the efforts of all to share the benefits linked to the use of water or other resources.


Determining how income provided by the natural resources used in agriculture is divided between actors is a key issue.


G-EAU at the international level

In the South, with expatriate scientists from CIRAD and IRD, the joint research unit is present in four geographical zones:

  • in North Africa, especially Morocco and Tunisia. We are also involved in field work and partnerships in Algeria.
  • in West Africa: we have expatriate researchers in Senegal and Burkina Faso, and field work is underway in Benin, Mali and Guinea.
  • in Southern Africa, we are present in South Africa (expatriates) and Mozambique (field work).
  • in Southeast Asia, we have one expatriate researcher in Thailand, one in Cambodia, and we are also involved in field work in Vietnam and Laos.


In the North:

  • in the Netherlands: Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) and IHE Delft Institute for Water Education (UNESCO Centre)
  • in Spain: CSIC (equivalent to CNRS) in Seville and Cordoba
  • in Italy: Universities of Bari and Padua


More information

  • Website
  • Contact: Olivier Barreteau, Directeur de l’UMR G-EAU – +33 4 67 16 64 39
  • Location : 361 rue Jean-François Breton – BP 5095 – F-34196 Montpellier