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Main research question/goal
High-quality, safe, and sufficient drinking water is essential for life. 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 (European Commission, 2012). Despite the increased integration of policies to deliver clean and safe drinking water over the last 30 years there is clearly a need to increase the engagement between interdependent actors and stakeholders (EEA, 2015). The biggest challenge is the reduction of diffuse pollution of drinking water sources by pesticides and fertilizers used by the agricultural sector. This requires a move towards more “horizontal” 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 organizations, environmental agencies and ministries (OECD, 2011). The overall aim of the European Horizon2020 project ‘WaterProtect’ is to contribute to the effective uptake and realization of innovative farming systems delivering good water quality. In this project we develop an integrative multi-actor participatory framework. We also develop innovative instruments that enable actors to monitor, to finance and to effectively implement management practices and measures for the protection of water sources.

Research approach
The project uses a multi-actor approach in seven action labs across Europe to evaluate the feasibility and uptake of science-based mitigation and stewardship solutions to improve and protect water quality in drinking water source areas. ILVO leads the work package ‘water governance’, where we search for successful strategies to improve water quality. A key point of departure is that governance of water quality is not only a role for the government but also for private actors. ILVO is responsible for setting up a framework for development and analysis of water governance systems, guiding the governance research in the various action labs and, using a comparative study between the action labs, to name the characteristics, difficulties and limitations for good water governance systems. The specific focus is on water supplies mainly suffering from agricultural pollution.

The concrete approach includes: Harmonizing datasets on pesticides and nutrients in water sources through the setup of targeted participatory monitoring. The data will be integrated with existing monitoring data from environment and land agencies, water producers, and farmers or farmers’ associations.

Identifying (in close collaboration with actors), developing and designing best practices involving innovative farming systems (water farms) delivering good quality drinking water.

Creating user-friendly web-based collaborative management tools with collective participation of farmers and consumers bringing together monitoring and spatial modelling tools on landscape characterization, farming systems, water systems, vulnerable zones and risk areas, and applications of pesticides and fertilisers.

ILVO is also strongly involved in the scaling-up of the project results to European level.

The main output of WaterProtect is improved public policy instruments and decision support tools to support the effective adoption and realization of management practices and mitigation measures to protect drinking water resources. We upscale the improved knowledge and water governance systems to other areas in Europe based on a comparative analysis from the seven action labs and other example cases across the EU. We also provide guidelines to contribute to the improved implementation of existing legislation and the development of future EU policy related to agriculture, water governance, nutrient and pesticide regulation, water quality and drinking water protection, and cross cutting issues. Finally, we will share knowledge and practical advice to the case study actors and stakeholders through targeted dissemination and develop easy-to-use practical materials to farmers and consumers on governance, monitoring, and farming practices.
Effective start/end date1/06/1731/05/20

ID: 4988929