Vineyards on the Sancerre hillsides (Cher, central France, 2003). © BRGM - Philippe Calcagno

RURECO : Institutions for groundwater dependent rural economies

The RURECO project aims to improve our understanding of strategies increasing the resilience of groundwater dependent rural economies.

The european project RURECO was launched in February 2018 and is scheduled to run until January 2020. Working with local actors, it develops foresight methodology that support water user associations to design collective solutions to groundwater overexploitation.

View of irrigation equipment in a cornfield (United States, 2012). © Charles Brutlag - Fotolia

View of irrigation equipment (2012). © Charles Brutlag - Fotolia


Groundwater plays a crucial for water and food security and the economic development of rural areas. It accounts for 33% of total water abstraction worldwide and half of the irrigation water used to grow the world’s food. Groundwater resources are being over-exploited, threatening the sustainability of rural economies - a situation that is expected to worsen under climate change.

There is little consensus on how overexploitation can be curtailed. One of the greatest challenges is how to integrate agricultural development with groundwater management in order to better align agricultural water demand with available water resources. Future resilience will be dependent on the ability of rural communities to adapt to a changing water resource base while fostering a competitive, innovative and dynamic rural economy.

Project objectives

The research aims to improve our understandings of strategies and institutional arrangements that help groundwater user associations to close the gap between available water resources and agricultural water demand. The research proposes to develop a methodological framework based on participatory foresight that encourages participants to envision possible futures and pathways and enables them to design collective solutions. The ambition is to strengthen local capacities to design concrete strategies to reduce the dependence of agricultural systems on irrigation while maintaining their economic viability.

The project has the following objectives:

  1. To evaluate institutional arrangements established by groundwater user associations to tackle groundwater overexploitation.
  2. To identify and characterise strategies taken to develop water efficient and economically competitive agriculture.
  3. Identifier et caractériser les stratégies prises pour développer une agriculture économe en eau et compétitive économiquement.
  4. To develop and test a methodology enabling the participatory design of strategies supporting the strengthening of local institutions for groundwater management.
  5. To promote academic exchange and disseminate research outcomes.


The project must provide the following results:

  • New knowledge and understanding on the dynamics between quantitative groundwater management and agriculture.
  • Evaluation of governance models for effective management of groundwater resources.
  • Application of participatory foresight to support innovation within groundwater user associations.
  • Support to the agricultural sector to improve their environmental performance (water efficiency) and to adapt to climate change.
  • Production of concrete examples, exchange of experience and dissemination of knowledge.


Josselin Rouillard


More about the RURECO project


European flag

RURECO is funded under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action Individual Fellowship of the EU’s Horizon 2020 Programme for Research, Technological Development and Demonstration under Grant Agreement no. 750553.

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