Main authors: Frode Sundnes, Cors van den Brink, Morten Graversgaard
Case study leaders: Matjaž Glavan, Andrej Jamsek, Katarina Kresnik
iSQAPERiS editor: Jane Brandt
Source document: »Sundnes, F et al. (2020) Advancing MAPs as vehicles for resolving issues on drinking water pollution from agriculture. FAIRWAY Project Deliverable 2.5R, 56 pp


In »Multi-actor platforms as vehicles for resolving drinking water pollution issues we critically assess the MAP engagement processes in the FAIRWAY case studies. We look at lessons learned and map opportunities and bottlenecks for meaningful engagement, shed light on challenges and how they have been addressed, and explore the future sustainability of the engagement platforms beyond the lifetime of the project. Here we present feedback from Dravsko Polje MAP participants on the performance and functioning of their MAP that was fed into that assessment to enable the harvesting of lessons and best practice.

Contents table
1. Description of MAP
2. Problem identification and shared understanding
3. Achievements
4. Engagement process and participation
5. Trust
6. Conflicts
7. Future sustainability of MAP
8. Lessons learned

1. Description of MAP

Dravsko polje is an alluvial plain of the river Drava, in north-eastern Slovenia. It covers 293 km2 with altitudes between 205 to 364 m.a.s.l. The area is administratively divided among twelve municipalities each one with their individual rights and responsibilities in managing land use policy and wastewaters. As water is a resource of national importance it is regulated by the state. The study area includes two decrees on water protection zones (WPZ), one for the northern and one for the southern part.

The area is suitable for intensive agricultural production (intensive arable and livestock), due to the favourable climate, flat relief, agricultural holdings structure and the size of land parcels. The area under water protection regulations cover 68 drinking water extraction points in 6 water supply systems. Average annual extraction is approximately 3.5 Mm3/year which is distributed to the cities of Maribor and Ptuj and small and medium size villages. The total number of inhabitants relying on drinking water from this area is approximately 130,000. In the area there are two regulations on water protection areas, which protect the aquifer as the primary source of drinking water. Water companies have to mix water from shallow and deep wells to reach an acceptable quality of tap water.

To discuss and solve the issue of agricultural impact on groundwater quality, all relevant stakeholders are present in the MAP, the Clean Drinking Water Partnership:

  • Farmers: Joined in the civil initiative Dravsko polje. They all work on a voluntary basis and they have agricultural land in the water protection zone, so they are very involved as one of the main polluters. Farmers will be involved developing advising for application of fertilizers and pesticides.
  • Agricultural Companies: They hire land from state (Farmland and Forest Fund of RS). They are quieter and do not publicly debate the problems.
  • Agricultural advisers: Chamber for Agriculture and Forestry. A professional organization run by farmers and agricultural companies and partly financed by government. Agricultural advisers are helping farmers to farm in accordance with the demands stated in the legislation.
  • Drinking water suppliers: Water Supply Company Maribor and Water Supply Company Ptuj are professionally organized companies. These companies provide payments to the farmers which are farming in the water protected zones and also assure data for monitoring.
  • Governmental organisations: The Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning (MESP), Slovenian Environmental Agency (SEA), Slovenian Water Agency (SWA), Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food (MAFF), Farmland and Forest Found of RS (FFF) are involved because they are responsible for the legislation for water protection zones. Their aim is to propose efficient legislation.

To present the MAP idea to key farmers, an annual workshop was held for farmers in water protection zones whilst celebrating World Water Day (22nd of March 2018). The workshop was attended by 26 farmers from the area.

The next meeting (11th May 2018) was organized for all other key stakeholders (Ministry of environment and spatial planning, Ministry of Agriculture, Water companies, agricultural advisers, municipalities). The meeting was organized to receive their feedback on the idea and essential topics that would need to be solved in the coming years. The main reason for the meeting was to reduce the tensions and facilitate first-hand exchange of information between farmers and public bodies. We decided that the MAP would be called “Partnerstvo za čisto pitno vodo” - "Clean Drinking Water Partnership". We agreed that the group should not exceed 15 members. By creating a smaller group, we want to give an opportunity for key stakeholders to express their concerns and to be heard, that problems and solutions can be explained to them, and that they make decisions jointly. The stakeholders represent different interest (state, municipalities, public companies, farms, agricultural enterprises) whose goal is to integrate the solution of the problem in question, which relates to the relationship between the provision of clean drinking water and the economic performance of agriculture. In doing so, they jointly support and defend the adopted decision.

The MAP was established less than 2 years ago, although activities in the area have been running for a much longer period. Most stakeholders were selected and invited as part of the FAIRWAY project.

The questions in the survey were answered by 10 respondents.  

2. Problem identification and shared understanding

There is broad consensus with the stakeholders about the problem identification: ‘The main goal is to solve the problems of farming in the water protection buffer zones, in relation to discharges into drinking water’. Despite the broad consensus about the problem identification, respondents indicate the level of shared understanding between ‘some extent’ (60%) and ‘large extent’ (40%).  

3. Achievements

Most respondents (60%) consider the MAP to some extent successful in addressing the issue. A minority consider the MAP to a large (20%) or a limited (20%) extent successful. Regarding the large extent, it was mentioned that farmers can adapt to water safety regimes with positive constructive ideas or measures. While regarding the limiting extent it was mentioned that no funds for new technology are available or that stakeholders can only make a limited contribution to solve the issue.

New insights consist of the fact that the MAP contributes to improvements in communication between stakeholders (50%). But participation in the FAIRWAY project also contributed to wider insight into the situation in other countries (20%) and information regarding certain measures and subsidies (10%). Two respondents have not gained any new insights yet.

The respondents have different views on the changes observed as a result of the activities in the MAP. Half of the respondents indicate that there are no changes yet, just talking. Three of these respondents are farmers with a focus on implementing new measures, farming practices, techniques, decision support tools etc. Half of the respondents indicate that the major change is that all stakeholders are sitting together addressing a common issue to find a common solution. These respondents are representatives from water works and from national and local authorities and agricultural advisors.  

4. Engagement process and participation

Respondents are unanimous that all actors relevant for resolving the issue are involved in the MAP.

Respondents have different views on their ability to influence the priorities in the MAP. The respondent from the national level indicated a large ability while others, especially the farmers, indicate no ability (20%) to influence the priorities. Most respondents indicate that they are able to influence the priorities to some extent (30%) or to a limited extent (40%). This can be interpreted as a skewed power balance within the MAP or as an indication that the priorities are already set.

Most respondents (60%) consider the MAP to be to some extent a successful platform for engagement. These respondents consist of farmers and representatives from the municipality, private sector and water companies. Important for the success of the MAP is the extent to which the conclusions of the partnership are considered by the decision makers. The respondent considering the MAP as being of a limited success, gives the same explanation. So, the MAP as a platform for engagement is considered successful, but the mandate of the MAP and the impact of the conclusions of the MAP in solving the real-world problem is valuated differently by the different respondents.  

5. Trust

The most important trust-building factors are formal meetings because these meetings contribute to a better understanding. The respondents mention two types of better understanding, i.e., better understanding each other’s points of view and better understanding of the water quality.  

6. Conflicts

Respondents unanimously indicate that issues – not necessarily conflicts – are solved by debates and discussions.  

7. Future sustainability of MAP

Regarding the future sustainability of the MAP, only two respondents indicate that there are no limits so far. The other respondents see different threats for the future sustainability. Reasons mentioned are:

  • People within administrations are changing positions too quickly.
  • Without the MAP, there is no good connectivity between stakeholders.
  • Misunderstanding by decision makers of the importance of problems.
  • If the ministries fail to present the platform's conclusions in a timely and professional manner.
  • If the expert solutions are not considered by decision makers.
  • If the issue is politicized.
  • Poor cooperation from government agencies and ministries.

So, the MAP contributed to a better understanding of the different points of view of the various stakeholders and water quality issues. However, future sustainability of the MAP is very much dependent on the ability, ambition and possibility of esp. authorities (administration and government) to sustain the trust and common understanding. Not only as an organization, also in person.  

8. Lessons learned

Regarding the lessons learned, four respondents indicate no lessons. The other respondents indicate a wide variety of lessons:

  • It further strengthened my thinking about the importance of groundwater governance, and I received some practical knowledge from abroad.
  • It all revolves around a lack of funds.
  • The measures so far must be improved.
  • Water is precious. One needs to know that it costs something to improve water quality. Farmers complain that there is little success and no results are visible. More initiative is needed from the government, farmers are trying their best already.
  • Good listening, different opinions, presentation of arguments and as many formal meetings as possible are important to strengthen the common understanding of the issue and to create conceptual solutions.
  • To understand the work and views of other stakeholders is of great importance for a global insight into the issues the project addresses.

A main lesson learned is the importance of formal meetings as a trust-building vehicle as these meetings contribute to a better understanding. 


Note: For full references to papers quoted in this article see


Go To Top