|Main authors:||Frode Sundnes, Cors van den Brink, Morten Graversgaard|
|Case study leaders:||Leah Jackson-Blake, Ingrid Nesheim
|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 Vansjø 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.
|1. Description of MAP|
|2. Problem identification and shared understanding|
|4. Engagement process and participation|
|7. Future sustainability of MAP|
|8. Lessons learned|
The Vansjø catchment is a lake system in south-eastern Norway. Lake Vansjø is used as a drinking water source. The lake Vansjø catchment has a long history of collaboration between actors going back to the 1970s, when poor water quality and signs of eutrophication were first monitored and recorded. In 1999 the Morsa project was established to improve the poor water quality in the watershed. A bad episode of blue-green algae development in the early 2000s further intensified the work to find solutions to the problems, and triggered action that engaged politicians from the national to the local level. Economic incentives using agricultural production funds for reducing the impact of agriculture on water quality, combined with legal requirements for farmers to reduce agricultural run-off to water bodies are used, as well as “soft incentives” such information campaigns including such as advisory farm visits, collaboration with Farmer organisations to present information, and information stands in the municipality.
Forms of collaboration between inhabitants, farmers, and local, regional and sectoral authorities have been ongoing for over two decades, although collaboration primarily has been between authorities at different levels and municipalities (Stokke 2006, Naustdalslid 2015). In addition, many research projects that have focused on the area and their monitoring and research activities have contributed toward identifying and documenting sources of pollution, which have helped to create targeted measures. While the water quality has improved over the last couple of decades, nitrate and phosphorus pollution continue to challenge water quality. Today, Vansjø has high concentrations of nutrients and algae blooms are likely to happen, as it did in summer of 2019. Climate change is moreover likely to aggravate the environmental status of the lake.
The current MAP is formally constructed of a sub-district water board consisting of mayors from 11 municipalities, politicians from the regional county organization and sectoral national authorities, run by an executive committee consisting of the chair, two elected representatives from the board and a secretary. There are also four thematic working groups with representatives from the municipalities: sewage, agriculture, environmental monitoring and the coastal area group. The thematic working groups consist of representatives from the municipalities and the county governors and assess and evaluate measures within their field. They meet biannually and provide advice on regional regulations and other relevant topics, while thematic sub-committees (on agriculture, climate adaptation, and wastewater management) meet 3-4 times a year.
Important research questions for this MAP are:
- How do multi actor platforms on water issues function over time?
- What factors influence the level of engagement and trust to enable collective action and collaboration?
For the MAP analysis a survey was distributed to municipalities (political and administrative personnel), regional counties, sectoral state authorities and other relevant actors. In total, 29 responded with the majority (70 %) working at the municipal administration. Around 45 % of the respondents had worked with the issue for 10 years or longer, underlining the long-standing collaboration in the area. In addition, participant observation of meetings and a number of interviews (N-10) has also informed the analyses.
The majority of informants (13) stated that improving water quality in a general sense is what the MAP is set up to resolve, represented by the statement “ensure a good water quality in the whole watershed, and all the measures on land and in water that can enable this”. Related to this broad definition were categories related to nutrient run-off from agriculture and sewage (2 respondents), and to reduce run-off from agriculture (3). In these responses, agriculture-related problems that the MAP can solve include reducing soil erosion of cultivated areas to streams and lakes and thereby reduce the phosphorus concentration in the lake. A smaller set of answers focused on the organizational aspects (6 responses) that the MAP, for instance, contributes to the ability to coordinate responsible parties, to steer the municipalities in the right direction and inspire them to prioritize the work. A shared understanding of what the problems at hand are in Morsa/Vansjø is flagged as an important factor in what has been possible to achieve over the last 20 years (see Stokke 2006, Naustdalslid 2015). In our survey, a common understanding and awareness of the problems is also highlighted as important (4 respondents). This relates to knowledge generation for devising and implementing effective measures (6 respondents). Monitoring efforts have been ongoing for several decades and knowledge-generation has solved some disputes. For example, in the 2000s there was a hypothesis that the lake was self-fertilizing but has been refuted by research which also alleviated conflicts and resistance toward measures. In our survey,
Our survey indicate that the MAP has contributed the most to solve the problems related to dispersed sewers (59% strongly agreed), followed by agricultural runoff (48% strongly agreed) and municipal sewers (39%). When asked to elaborate on what they believed has been the most important for reaching these accomplishments, collaboration and dialogue appears as the most common explanatory factor. Collaboration is described as taking place between different municipalities, administrative units, disciplines, farmers and political parties. As the following response indicate there has been several surrounding factors such as a salient environmental problem and supportive politicians and administrative leaders, as well as knowledge and funds: “The collaboration started with a visible problem related to water quality that was important for the inhabitants- knowledge-based management from the start- well-functioning thematic groups, trust within the sub-river district/ political leadership, financial means for a project leader, financial means to gather knowledge and implement projects”. The importance of proven and efficient measures that show results after implementation is also highlighted.
The organization of the MAP, with political representation on the board, a secretariat and the thematic groups that can be reorganized depending on the needs in the sub-river basin, has been cited as a key to its accomplishments. Previous studies have emphasized that the organization along with a strong leadership, has created a sense of community and joint responsibility over time, and the provision of knowledge has contributed to a shared understanding of the problems at hand. Through the organization of thematic groups, such as the agricultural group, the farmers’ association and civil society organizations have been allowed an observatory role. However, engagement of farmers has been carried out through a close relationship between agricultural consultants working for the municipalities, visiting farms and supervising certain measures. There has been a close dialogue with the farmers’ associations and farmers in the river basin have been offered environmental advice, for example related to how to reduce nitrogen pollution of water sources for free. Such arrangements are informal, and it has been suggested that the means for farmers and other organizations to formally participate are constrained and should be improved. There are also questions to be asked about the flow of information from the organisation and its thematic groups back to the farmers. In the survey, we asked what organizations could influence and set the agenda for the work in the watershed. The thematic groups were rated the highest with 19%, followed by the municipal administration at 13 %, the Morsa secretariat at 10 % and the County Governor’s environmental section (10%). Given that the thematic groups are considered the most important organisation for setting priorities in the watershed, more active participation of a broader group of actors such as farmers and the general public may be desirable. In the survey 72% answered that all relevant actors in Morsa are involved, while 28% answered no. Interestingly, only 52% said that they believed that today’s organization allowed for sufficient participation of all actors, whilst 24 % answered that more participation should be encouraged.
We asked the respondents about trust and trust building measures in the watershed. While a survey may be not be the best means of capturing trust, the results show that the Morsa thematic groups (79%), Morsa secretariat (76%), Morsa VO (52%) and the County governors’ agricultural sector (52%) received the most trust from respondents. On the other hand, the County Governor (24%), the Agricultural Agency (21%), Environment and recreation organizations (21%) were stated to be trusted to a lesser degree. On the question of whether the respondents’ trust in the actors in Morsa had changed over time, a decreased trust in national actors (17%) and regional actors (10%) is expressed in the survey, whilst increased trust is assigned to local actors (24%) and regional actors (21%). We are unsure whether the regional actors in this case represent similar organizations or if they are different. The most important factors for building trust were stated to be: organization in thematic groups (72 %), increased knowledge level (66%), improved water quality/ aquatic environment.
No conflicts are reported in the survey carried out in this MAP. However, an oft-cited episode in 2013 within the larger river basin is worth mentioning. At that time, national authorities overruled a locally and regionally negotiated agreement on ploughing restrictions to reduce run-off to surface waters (Hanssen et al. 2014, Sundnes et al. 2017). This episode acts as an important reference-point for trust building between actors at different level, and for the conflicting goals that at times surface in these multi-level governance arrangements, at this instance a situation where political priorities of increased agricultural production were pitted against concerns for water quality.
Given that the MAP has existed for several decades in various forms, it is pertinent to ask what the MAP may looks like in the future and if it in its current form and organization will succeed in improving the water quality. Out of the respondents 38% believed that the existing plans and measures would maintain/improve status quo to some extent, the same number of respondents (38%) believed that it would do so to a large extent and 10% to a very large extent. The long-term challenges related to viability were stated as following:
- political prioritization locally (55%),
- political prioritization nationally (52%)
- financing (45%)
- conflict of interests between sectors (45%)
- political prioritization regionally (38%)
- municipal participation (38%)
- public engagement (21%)
- lack of visible results (17%)
The Morsa sub-district water board, that constitutes the MAP, represents an arena for information exchange among local authorities and regional authorities and farmers. However, the majority of the farmer community does not necessarily get access to the information shared at meetings, and activities to target information-sharing to involved stakeholders are needed.
Whether this board functions as an active or passive arena for multi-actor engagement is to a large extent dependant on financial support through national structures to enable facilitation.
Note: For full references to papers quoted in this article see