science support sq

In this section of FAIRWAYiS we integrate and synthesise the results from the other parts of the research programme, to identify key options for protection of drinking water resources against diffuse pollution of nitrate and pesticides from agriculture and to analyse the implications of these options for EU policies and practice. We:

  • evaluate the barriers/issues in providing integrated scientific support for EU policy;
  • evaluate the feedbacks of actors at EU level on the evidence based practice in the different FAIRWAY case studies and on the interim results of the FAIRWAY project;
  • recommend the most promising activities, policies and tools at EU level;



Main authors: Špela Železnikar, Matjaž Glavan, Sindre Langaas, Gerard Velthof, Susanne Wuijts, Susanne Klages, Claudia Heidecke, Marina Pintar
Editor: Jane Brandt
Source document: »Železnikar, S. et al. (2021) Evaluation report on barriers and issues in providing integrated scientific support for EU policy. FAIRWAY Project Deliverable 7.1R 56 pp


The contents of this section of FAIRWAYiS have been published as a scientific article

  • Glavan M., Železnikar Š., Velthof G., Boekhold S., Langaas S., Pintar M. 2019. How to enhance the role of science in European Union policy making and implementation: The case of agricultural impacts on drinking water quality. Water, ISSN 2073-4441, vol. 11, iss. 3, 22 str., ilustr.

and are summarised in a FAIRWAY Research Highlights leaflet

In this section of FAIRWAYiS we analyse and discuss the role of science in EU policy making and implementation processes concerning the agricultural impact on drinking water quality. This concerns, broadly speaking, the Water Framework Directive, Drinking Water Directive, Groundwater Directive, Nitrate Directive and Directive for the Sustainable Use of Pesticides. Specifically, we want to identify barriers that hinder the science and research sector from having effective dialogue and cooperating in knowledge sharing from policy making to actual EU policies implementation on the member state or regional level. We argue that the science/research sector’s role in policy making and implementation is vague and dispersed across different stages of the process. It also has different roles in the process, as an initiator of policy, a follower of policy or political strategies, or a participant in the public discussion. Our aim of this analysis is to suggest possible long-term system improvements and to encourage scientists and policymakers to develop new solutions for improving communication flow. The study, while conceptual, is based on empirical data collected by a desk study, a workshop with different stakeholders, and individual interviews with EU-level stakeholders.

A non-systematic review of relevant scientific literature was carried out using scientific databases such as Scopus, Web of Science, Science Direct and Google Scholar. Other information was obtained from websites of the EU and the internet. This desk study was carried out as a basis for the workshop and interviews and focused on the following topics:

  1. agriculture and water in the EU,
  2. evidence-based policy making in the EU, and
  3. implementation of the Water Framework Directive.

»Desk study results

A workshop on the “Evaluation of the issues and barriers around providing integrated scientific support for EU policy” was held in Brussels, Belgium, on 6 December, 2017. The participants were asked about:

  • the main issues on the EU level related to drinking water resource protection against diffuse pollution of nitrates and pesticides from agriculture in the EU,
  • the main barriers,
  • the Relationship between Science and Policy and its Reflection in EU Policy,
  • Improvements and possible Solutions for Enhancing the Role of Integrated Scientific Support in EU Policy Decission Making.

»Workshop results

Workshop results were augmented with a number of one-to-one Interviews using the same set of questions.
»Interview results

The results indicate that problems or barriers are mostly perceived at the national or regional level and are connected with a lack of political will, scarce instruction on the legislation implementation process, and a lack of funding opportunities for science to be included in policy making and further EU policy implementation. In response to that, we suggest translating scientific knowledge on technological, practical or environmental changes and using dissemination techniques for specific audiences and in local languages. Further, the relationship between data, information and decision making needs to change by implementing monitoring in real-time, which will allow for the quick adaptation of strategies. In addition, we suggest project clustering (science, policy, stakeholders, and citizens) to make science and research more connected to current policy challenges and stakeholder needs along with citizen involvement with an aim of establishing sustainable long-term relationships and communication flows.
»Possible solutions to some of the problems identified

We conclude by reflecting on issues relating to the dissemination of EU-funded science in the light of the desk study, workshop and interview results.


Related articles

Main authors: Janja Rudolf, Špela Železnikar, Matjaž Glavan, Andrej Udovč, Sindre Langaas, Marina Pintar
FAIRWAYiS Editor: Jane Brandt
Source document: »Rudolf, J. et al. (2021) Actor's feedback on practices for improvement of water quality in FAIRWAY case studies and interim project results. FAIRWAY Project Deliverable 7.2R 74 pp


In this section of FAIRWAYiS we present the feedback obtained on the evidence-based practices in the different FAIRWAY case studies to improve water quality, building on the work described in »Barriers and issues in providing integrated scientific support for EU policy.

We report on

  1. feedback from local actors on the evidence-based practice in the different FAIRWAY case studies to improve water quality,
  2. the detailed views of EU representatives on FAIRWAY project interim results, in order to optimally target the final results, and
  3. the views of different EU land managers on the applicability, cost and adoptability of chosen best practises and measures to reduce pesticides and nitrates in drinking water resources.

To obtain the feedback and views, three surveys were conducted

Firstly, members of the multi-actor platforms (MAPS) in the case studies were asked to what extent they agreed with the evaluation of the major issues and barriers for solving issues relating to diffuse pollution of drinking water by agricultural use of nitrates and pesticides made by EU representatives (see »Barriers and issues in providing integrated scientific support for EU policy.)

There was general agreement among the MAPs that stronger involvement of all actors in the science-policy interface is a solution for science integration into policy. Most respondents also agree or strongly agree that it is good that member states have a voice in solving problems on local level relating agricultural pollution of drinking water resources and that MAPs are the right way to engage stakeholders in this issue closely. However, the idea of separation of pesticides and nitrates in projects and policy communications has considerably lower support in the MAPs as on EU level.
»Actors' feedback on practices for the improvement of water quality in case studies

Secondly, the interim results from FAIRWAY's research programme were presented to a Joint Policy Conference meeting held in Brussels on 7th December 2018. The participants were asked their opinions on the usefulness of the results to different stakeholder groups including researchers, local, regional and national authorities, agro-industry, SMEs, NGOs and farmers.

The respondents stressed that there is an absolute need to have the key and essential final project results presented shorter and in a language understandable to policymakers. The idea of possible long-term relationship/communication flows between research projects and political agenda, including Taskforce water intending to design project clusters seems very useful to the vast majority of respondents. The respondents agreed that the most effective ways to receive interim project results are presentations at conferences and workshops or via executive summaries of deliverables. The final results of the project can be best communicated via executive summaries of deliverables, and by conferences/workshops, articles in scientific journals and YouTube videos.
»Actors' feedback on practices for water quality improvement in interim project results

Thirdly, drawing on the research findings presented in »Management practices that reduce nitrate transport and »Management practices that reduce pesticide transport, a wider group of EU land managers (mostly from COPA-COGECA and EUFRAS associations) was surveyed to choose 5 most promising practices according to their applicability, cost and adoptability. Finding the best options of evidence-based practices regarding their applicability, cost and adoptability has shown that there are some potential win-win solutions for all stakeholders involved.

For pesticides regulation good potentials are showing the practices:

  1. Bio beds/filters and/or
  2. Constructed wetland.

And for nitrates regulation good potentials are showing the practices:

  1. Changes in the application method,
  2. Grassed waterways and/or
  3. Changes in cropping system and crop rotation.

»Actors' feedback on the potential of evidence-based practices for water quality improvement

The conclusions drawn from all three surveys are briefly summarised.


Related articles

Main authors: Janja Rudolf, Jane Brandt, Gerard Velthof, Mart Ros, Peter Schipper, Yanjiao Mi-Gegotek, Erik van den Berg, Jan-Peter Lesschen
FAIRWAYiS Editor: Jane Brandt
Source document: »Rudolf, J. et al. (2021) Recommendations of the most promising package(s) of measures, policies, governance models and tools at national and EU level. FAIRWAY Project Deliverable 7.3 76 pp


In this section of FAIRWAYiS we provide recommendations for the most promising package(s) of measures, policies, governance models and tools at national and EU level. The recommendations are drawn from the results of the FAIRWAY research programme, the effects of some of which are modelled using MITERRA-EUROPE and GeoPEARL, integrated assessment tools at national and EU level.

FAIRWAY's most important key messages were determined, from which the knowledge for most promising activities, policies and tools evolved. A methodology was applied to build project’s key messages without losing track of the original authors, linkage to research tasks and case studies, and relevance to stakeholder groups. With this methodology a vertical and horizontal distribution of knowledge between science and practise has been clearly documented and can be followed through by any interested reader.
»Deriving FAIRWAY's key messages

The MITERRA-EUROPE model was applied to assess the potential effects of the promising measure cover crops on nitrate leaching on NUTS 2 level in the EU. The results are compared with scenarios without cover crops, high implementation rate of cover crops, and balanced nitrogen (N) fertilization .
»Assessment of nitrate leaching at EU level using MITERRA-EUROPE

The effectiveness of measures that can reduce pesticide leaching (residues of plant protection products) was assessed using the spatially distributed model GeoPEARL. The leaching to groundwater of pesticides in the safequard zones of seven drinking water areas in the south of the Netherlands were assessed for potatoes, maize, grass and leek. The seven areas are part of the Noord-Brabant case study. Measures include mechanically weeding instead of use pesticides, a reduction the pesticide dose with 50%, and less applications in time (1 instead of 2 applications and 2 instead of 3 applications).
»Assessment of pesticide pollution in the Netherlands using GeoPEARL

The key messages were combined results of the model simulations to derive FAIRWAY's overall summary recommendations.
»FAIRWAY's summary recommendations

Related articles

Main authors: Rozalija Cvejič, Marina Pintar, Gerard Velthof
FAIRWAYiS Editor: Jane Brandt
Source document: »Cvejič, R. et al. (2021) Scientific support for policies aiming at reducing diffuse nitrates and pesticides pollution of drinking water in Europe; synthesis report. FAIRWAY Project Deliverable 7.4 29 pp


FAIRWAY has reviewed approaches to protect drinking water resources against agricultural diffuse pollution by nitrate and pesticides, and identified, and further developed innovative measures and governance approaches for a more effective drinking water protection, together with stakeholders.

In this section of FAIRWAYiS we synthesise the iterative process of knowledge and practice exchange between case studies and policy during FAIRWAY, resulting in an integrated scientific support for relevant EU-policies related to drinking water quality (i.e. the Drinking Water Directive, Nitrates Directive, Water Framework Directive, and Directive on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides, as well the Common Agricultural Policy). This synthesis is especially relevant to those scientist, policy makers and practitioners that are looking into possible combination of strategies to reduce defuse pollution with nitrate and pesticides in agricultural drinking water catchments.

We set out the background context for the need for such a synthesis;

outline the methods used to develop the synthesis from the main findings of FAIRWAY concerning (a) multi-actor platforms and their future role in reducing ADP, (b) policy implementation responsibility and how can science and policy better support stakeholder networks and individuals; (c) promising governance strategies and how can coherence and consistency of EU legislation and policy be improved to effectively protect drinking water resources at the local scale; (d) tracking the change and which are the good baselines for monitoring and indicators for future actions; promising measures and practices that we need to push forward to advance ADP, and (e) advancement and promotion of DSTs to help us on ground;

then present the synthesis itself and outlook for a potential future role of an EIP AGRI Focus Group to enable the continued to support of FAIRWAY's multi-actor platforms after the end of the project.
»Synthesis and outlook


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