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Farm systems that produce good Water quality for drinking water supplies

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - FAirWAY (Farm systems that produce good Water quality for drinking water supplies)

Periodo di rendicontazione: 2020-10-01 al 2021-11-30

Safe drinking water is vital for human health and the economy. Throughout the EU, diffuse pollution of nitrogen and pesticides from agriculture is the main obstacle to meeting the drinking water quality targets. Policies to protect drinking water resources are not achieving a consistent level of implementation and effectiveness across all member states.

The overall objective of FAIRWAY is
• to review approaches for protection of drinking water resources against pollution by pesticides and nitrate, and
• to identify and further develop innovative measures and governance approaches for a more effective drinking water protection.
FAIRWAY started by building multi-actor platforms, linked to the case studies and the actors already involved in these studies. These multi-actor platforms are a solid base for executing and demonstrating the FAIRWAY project activities and serve as training centres and knowledge providers to actors. The multi-actor platforms (MAPs) were established and a management and communication structure of the MAPs was developed. The MAPs delivered input to the assessment of the use of agri-drinking water quality indicators, measures and practices to decrease nitrate and pesticide leaching, use of decision support tools, the assessment of governance arrangements, and stakeholder feedbacks on the evidence based practice in the case studies. This information will be used in an overall analysis of the success and failure factors of the different case studies and Integrated assessments and recommendations of most promising measures, policies and tools at national and EU level. During the course of 2019 lessons from the engagement processes in the project’s multi-actor platforms were collected.

A review report of Agri-Drinking Water quality Indicators (ADWIs) on farm level, study site and drinking water source has been delivered. ADWIs which act in the agricultural sector as Driving forces and as Pressure indicators are far more numerous than State respectively Impact indicators. State indicators that are used for the evaluation of the water quality are – on the contrary – far more standardized, like the water quality standards they are supposed to monitor.Common indicators on nitrate risk in use are rather simple statistics on fertilizer use, animal density or yield, but also N-budgets are applied. Pesticide risk indicators in use are compound/composite indicators, like the Treatment Frequency Index and Pesticide Load Index.

Two review reports have been delivered, one on effective nitrate leaching mitigation measures and practices and one on effective pesticides leaching mitigation measures and practices. A decision support tool for the selection of most promising measures and practices was approved. A review of existing meta-analyses and quantitative reviews showed that there is a lot of information available on the effectiveness of measures to reduce NO3 losses to ground- and surface waters. In particular the use of cover crops, (nitrification) inhibitors, and biochar has been well documented, often in relation-ship with other N parameters, such as nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions or soil N transformations. The success of the implementation of a measure often varies per farm and per location. It is subject to differences in topography, climate, and other farm management practices. Farm-tailored solutions are therefore likely to yield result. Vegetated filter strips are the most clear measure to reduce overland transport and pollution by pesticides. On-site measures against diffuse pollution comprise only a small part of the available approaches to reduce pesticide pollution. Beside on-site measures, reduced input of pesticide is a key factor to decrease pollution of water resources.

A report with a review of existing support tools has been delivered. More than 150 decision support tools were identified in total, of which 36 were selected for further investigation based on their national importance and relevance to the project aims. Bilateral contact with the owners of the decision support tools was established to obtained support and access to the software. The conclusion was that the countries preferred to adopt ideas and either enhance existing or develop new region-specific decision support tools, rather than to attempt to modify a decision support tool developed for another country. Based on the tests of decision support tools, criteria relating to functionality, use, access and output were identified which a decision support tool should fulfil if it is likely to be successful. The evaluated farm level DSTs all have in common that total costs of using the tools are kept at a low level and this is essential for a tool to be effective.

A comprehensive assessment is in progress of the coherence and consistency of the EU directives and policies that apply to farm water management with regard to water standards, monitoring and reporting requirements, avenues for actor participation, and enforcement methods. Three challenges were considered most worthy of further investigation: 1. The relationship between the Drinking Water Directive and the Water Framework Directive, 2. The relationship of the Water Framework Directive and the Nitrates Directive, and 3. Potential negative effects of the funding mechanism under the Common Agricultural Policy.

Socio-cultural factors or differences between member state countries and regions in Europe were mentioned as main barriers for successful implementation of EU water policies. Problems with translation and transposition of EU policies on local level were also highlighted. While relevant EU research project results are not really taken up by European Commission, European Parliament, those emanating from service contract studies for DGs are used to a much larger degree. The establishment of project clusters on the same topic, aiming for longer-term relationships and communication flows between scientists and policy makers, is a possible solution to improve the scientific support to European Union policies on the impacts of agriculture on drinking water quality.
The output will provide a blueprint for multi-actor engagement across the EU and will inform policy makers of the relative cost effectiveness of interventions.

The expected results of FAIRWAY are
i) increase the scientific understanding of the relationship between agriculture and drinking water protection,
ii) increase the understanding for the barriers to practical implementing of measures and deliver innovative measures, tools and instruments to solve these barriers,
iii) develop harmonized monitoring protocols and data-sets for monitoring of key farming practices and water quality,
iv) develop effective governance approaches, and
v) increase awareness and involvement of farmers and other citizens.

FAIRWAY will contribute to the following socio-economic impacts:
• Good cooperation between actors on pesticides, fertilisers and irrigation management practices capable of reducing point source and diffuse pollution in different contexts
• Greater involvement of farmers and other citizens in the monitoring of water quality
• Water governance models that are more conducive to the adoption and long-term durability of efficient on-farm and land-use strategies
• Integrated scientific support for relevant EU policies (e.g. CAP, WFD, ND, PD, Fertiliser Regulation)