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Innovative tools enabling drinking WATER PROTECTion in rural and urban environments

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - WATERPROTECT (Innovative tools enabling drinking WATER PROTECTion in rural and urban environments)

Reporting period: 2017-06-01 to 2018-11-30

Safe and sufficient drinking water is essential for life: we use it for drinking, food preparation and cleaning. However, more than half of the river and lake water bodies in Europe are reported to be in less than good ecological status and about 25% of groundwater across Europe is in poor chemical status. And, the situation is not improving anymore.
An important and persistant threat to drinking water sources is nitrogen pollution. This pollution is linked to the agricultural use of animal manure and fertilizer for crops and fields and also linked to soil erosion. Another source of nitrogen pollution is an absent or inappropriate communal sewage system in the area. Measures to reduce nitrogen pollution from agriculture and improvements in waste water treatment have led to a steady reduction in average nitrogen concentrations in rivers from 2.7 to 2.1 mg NO3/l (1992 to 2012) and average concentrations in groundwater are well below the Groundwater Quality Standard of 50 mg NO3/l . However, persistent hot spot areas remain across Europe at the regional level with nitrate levels stagnating above the set standards.
Several countries in Europe report aquifers having concentrations of pesticides that exceed the standard of 0.1 µg/l. This is also the case in several of the Waterprotect Action labs. Headwaters draining areas with intensive agriculture, also show elevated concentrations of pesticides in the surface water, impacting drinking water production from surface water further downstream.
Despite the increased integration of policies to deliver clean and safe drinking water over the past decades, there is clearly a need to increase the engagement of interdependent actors and stakeholders. The reduction of the diffuse pollution of drinking water sources by pesticides and fertilisers used by the agricultural sector remains the biggest challenge and requires a move towards more bottom-up water governance between the various actors and stakeholders: water companies, farmers, nature conservation NGOs, plant protection product producers, fertilizer producers, food and retail businesses, consumer organisations, environment agencies and ministries.
The Horizon 2020 project WaterProtect develops new solutions and tools in 7 Action labs where water pollution (nutrients and/or pesticides) from intensive agriculture may affect the quality of the water for drinking water production. In each of the seven proposed WaterProtect action labs, water pollution from either nutrients or pesticides or both is prevalent and most catchments pose challenges for drinking water production.
Participatory pesticide and nutrient monitoring strategies are an important part of the WaterProtect project as it is an established and accepted way to make informed decisions for the public. Through the common collection of data that are credible to multiple parties, participatory monitoring is an essential instrument for generating trust among actors. In every Action lab, WaterProtect engages actors from the start by combining pesticide and nutrient monitoring data in the case studies from various data sources leading to harmonised datasets. To increase the trust, awareness and credibility of the monitoring, farmers and the public are engaged in the design and the setup of water monitoring. Apps visualizing the monitoring data and relevant maps of the area on mobile phones and tablets are being developed to increase accessibility of information. Interactions with all actors in the action labs raise the awareness and stimulate discussions on the implementation of effective mitigation measures and best management practices. Alternative financing regimes are investigated to facilitate the process of implementation of mitigation measures and improve the water quality. Results from the action labs and from other existing cases in Europe will be used to set out a roadmap to upscale lessons learnt to the EU and support EU policy related to water quality and agriculture.
The activities of the first half of the project focused on establishing a multi-actor approach in the seven action labs. Local coalitions between relevant actors (farmers, communities, NGOs, private and public water producers, researchers, ministries and agencies) were set-up. In each of the action labs an actor analysis is performed, all available data on water quality and relevant catchment info is collected and harmonized, availabe Best Management Practices are compiled and local farming practices are investigated and a conceptual model of the physical system is made. This analysis is done in close collaboration with local actors and multiple meetings, trainings and discussion groups are organized to investigate the current state of the action lab and design future actions regarding monitoring approaches and implementation of Best Management Practices in a collaborative approach. Apps are developed in all action labs to give access to water quality data and other relevant information and to help design management strategies. An analysis of other successful cases has been performed to complement the knowledge gained in the action labs and support upscaling of the results in a later phase. Also an analysis of water quality and agriculture related policies at local and EU level has been done to help develop guidelines for policy in the final phase of the project. WaterProtect contains a substantial effort in terms of communication and dissemination. The project pays specific attention to impactful communication, at the action lab level, the national level and the EU level.
The WaterProtect Consortium aims at a strong long term multiplier effect for the lessons and successful practices of the Action labs and other good examples into new policy and governance instruments around Europe. Specific attention is paid to communication and dissemination since it is vital for the success of the project. WaterProtect wants to make the difference by creating impact on the ground in the different action labs and in policy making at EU scale.
The seven action labs in the EU.