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In this section of FAIRWAYiS we review, adapt, demonstrate and evaluate decision support tools (DSTs) for advice, training and communication in order to inform mitigation and establish common awareness for diffuse pollution of vulnerable drinking water resources among farmers and water suppliers. In relation specifically to national legislation we:

  • review of existing decision support tools used by farmers, farm advisors and water managers in water, nutrient and pesticide management;
  • evaluate a selection of decision support tools and measures in FAIRWAY case study sites at farm, catchment and regional scale;
  • assess costs and benefits of the selected tools for farmers, water companies and society;
  • develop a decision-support framework for advice, training and communication strategies to establish common awareness for diffuse pollution of vulnerable drinking water resources among farmers;
  • develop a phone app to provide guidance on the application, disposal and environmental risks associated with different pesticides in drinking water catchments.

Note: The extensive information given here is complete scientific results of the FAIRWAY project, as presented in the project deliverables. Deliverables are being written and added to the website throughout the period of the project, until it ends in November 2021. The availablility of and access to the scientific results is indicated in the introductions to each section

 Public access 
 Restricted access  (for project partners only, to allow authors time to publish their results)
 Not available yet  (the research is still underway)



Main authors: F.A. Nicholson, J.R. Williams, R. Cassidy, D. Doody, A. Ferriera, A. Jamsek, Ø. Kaste, S., Langas, R. K. Laursen, P. Schipper, N. Surdyk, L. Tendler, J. van Vliet and K.Verloop
Editor: Jane Brandt
Source document: Nicholson, F.A. et al. (2018) Survey and Review of Decision Supports Tools. FAIRWAY Project Deliverable 5.1 166 pp


This section of FAIRWAYiS contains a comprehensive overview of decision support tools (DSTs) used by farmers, farm advisors, water managers and policy makers in the EU for water, nutrient and pesticide management. It encompasses paper-based guidelines, farm-level software and phone apps, and complex models intended for research studies. The overall purpose of the review was to select a subset of DSTs that could be further assessed by the multi-actor platform (MAP) leaders for their potential suitability in managing water quality within the case study catchments of the FAIRWAY project (»Multi-actor platforms).

Structured searches of the scientific literature largely returned details of research-based modelling tools; therefore the unique combination of expertise and practical experience of the project participants was used to identify farm-scale tools and other locally developed DSTs that were assessed as being important in a national context.
»Definitions and methodology

More than 150 DSTs were identified in total, of which 36 were selected for further investigation based on their national importance and relevance to the project aims. For these DSTs, a set of Information Sheets were produced to provide an easily accessible source of key information on tool capabilities, and a subset were demonstrated to a group of project partners and MAP leaders at a Workshop.
»Decision support tool short list

A classification scheme was devised to better understand the target users of the DSTs and the types of support they were intended to provide. The DSTs were separated into those developed to support water quality/agri-environment policy makers operating at a regional or national level, and those intended to support sustainable nutrient management at the farm level. The DSTs were further divided into groups depending on whether they provided support for i) evaluation of current practices; ii) strategic advice for farm management and implementation of measures; or iii) on-farm operational management.
»Types of decision support tool

Few of the selected DSTs were primarily aimed at improving water quality. Rather they were farm (nutrient/pesticide) management tools and their inclusion in this review was based on the assumption that the efficient use of nitrogen and pesticides indirectly improves water quality; most participants reported using this type of DST. Only 3 of the shortlisted DSTs were explicitly developed to consider the impact of mitigation methods on water quality: FARMSCOPER (UK), Environmental Yardstick for Pesticides (NL) and Catchment Lake Modelling Network (NO). However, tools that support the efficient and smart application of nutrients or pesticides (e.g. by taking into account weather forecasts), can be said to provide indicative information on management measures for reducing losses to the water environment. Economic and financial impacts of mitigation methods were infrequently represented by the shortlisted DSTs.
»Representation of water quality, mitigation methods and economic and financial aspects in decision support tools

All the DSTs examined in this review operate within the context of the wider advisory frameworks in place in their respective countries, and this will clearly impact on the uptake of a DSTs and its usefulness/effectiveness. It may not always be straightfoward to transfer a DST from one country to another because the advisory framework are likely to be different, in addition to issues around language and requirements for country-specific data or calibration.
»National and international use of decision support tools and barriers to their uptake

Selected DSTs will be evaluated in the FAIRWAY case studies for their ability to assist in implementing mitigation methods and managing water quality.


Related articles

Main authors: R.K. Laursen, F. Bondgaard, P. Schipper, K. Verloop, L. Tendler, R. Cassidy, L. Farrow, D. Doody, F. A. Nicholson, J. R. Williams, I. Wright, J. Rowbottom, I. A. Leitão, A. Ferreira, B. Hasler, M. Glavan, A. Jamsek, N. Surdyk, J. van Vliet, P. Leendertse, M. Hoogendoorn and L. Jackson-Blake.
Editor: Jane Brandt
Source document: R.K. Laursen et al. (2019) Evaluation of Decision Supports Tools. FAIRWAY Project Deliverable 5.2 216 pp


In »Survey and review of existing decision support tools we conducted a comprehensive review and a survey which Decision Support Tools (DST) are currently used in the different case study sites. Out of 36 DST identified to be of higher relevance, 12 were selected for further investigation. The DSTs vary according to scale (field, farm, catchment, regional), pollutants (nutrients, pesticides) and integration of mitigation measures. A cross-country testing of DST revealed, if already existing tools could be used in other European sites or whether inspiration could be drawn from DST used in other case studies.

The FAIRWAY case study sites all face different challenges; therefore, the respective DST matching to scale, pollutant, etc. were tested accordingly. For the individual test results please have a look at:
»Selecting DSTs for evaluation

»Aalborg, DK
»Anglian Region, UK
»La Voulzie, FR
»Lower Saxony, DE
»Derg Catchment, IE
»Overijssel, NL
»Noord Brabant, NL
»Baixo Mondego, PT
»Dravsko Polje, SI

Results of the evaluations indicate that exchange of DSTs between countries is challenging due to various barriers to use (e.g. different legislation, input data requirements and regional differences in precipitation, soil types). Therefore, most countries already have comparable DSTs designed to address similar problems. During the evaluations, all case studies found inspiration and ideas from other countries’ DSTs which they would consider implementing in their own area. However, they preferred to adopt ideas and either enhance existing or develop new region-specific DSTs, rather than to attempt to modify a DST developed for another country.
For further details have a look at »DST evaluation results and discussion

A model DST that is acceptable to the majority of end users should fulfil most of the criteria summarised in Figure 1.


D5.2 fig01
Figure 1

A DST that fulfils these criteria and can deliver a range of functions is more likely to be successful, as end users prefer to limit the number of DSTs that they need to use. Additionally, good advisory assistance is important. The DST is only as good as the input data, and therefore support and advice from well-educated and communicative, skilful advisors are highly valuable for the end user to make the right decisions.

In a next step a »Decision-support framework for advice, training and communication strategies will be developed to highlight the ways in which DSTs can be applied successfully to establish and improve awareness of diffuse pollution of vulnerable drinking water resources among farmers and other stakeholders.


Related articles

Main authors: Berit Hasler, Fiona Nicholson, John Williams, Rachel Cassidy, Linda Tendler, Peter Lendertsee, Marije Hoogendoorn, Rikke Krogshave Laursen, Doan Nainngolan, Ingrid Nesheim
FAIRWAYiS Editor: Jane Brandt
Source document: Hasler, B. et al. (2019) Assessment of costs and benefits for farmers, water companies and society from using Decision Support Tools. FAIRWAY Project Deliverable 5.3 49 pp


There are many decision support tools (DSTs) that can support water management and related decisions at farm, catchment, national, and international levels by farmers, policy makers, waterworks and other stakeholders. The different types of DSTs belong to different “families” for example the farm level tools that are developed to support farmers in production decisions and the catchment level tools that are developed to assist and inform policymakers at different levels on the likely outcomes of projects and policy actions to protect water.

We start by summarising findings from the literature was used to define criteria for what makes a DST within these different domains effective and of economic relevance.
»Previous evaluations of decision support tools
»Criteria for assessing the costs and benefits of using decision support tools

Six farm level DSTs were analyised according to these criteria.

  • Mark Online, Denmark
  • Plant Protection Online, Denmark
  • Düngeplanung, Germany (Lower Saxony)
  • Environmental Yardstick, Netherlands
  • Farmscoper, UK

All these DSTs have a factor in common, that the total costs of using the tools are kept low and that this is essential for a tool to be effective. The individual cost related to the use of a DST cannot be quantified as it vary substantial depending on farm scale, management practice, user habits, etc. However it was concluded that the farm level tool can save money for farmers if inputs are reduced, but also that they are important in meeting the cross compliance requirements that are compulsory in all EU countries. The farm level DSTs are not designed to rise environmental awareness as it is of no direct economic return to the farmer.
»Decision support tools at farm level

Two catchment level DSTs

  • TargetEconN, Denmark
  • Farmscoper, UK

were chosen as examples of catchment scale tools that model cost-effective solutions, that can be used for policy advice and management decisions. The evaluation indicates that significant resources can be saved by using such tools to reveal cost-effective solutions and management practices. The explicit modelling and inclusion of spatial data on agricultural production in both models allows for the identification of mitigation methods that can help to target pollutant reductions whilst not reducing food production. The catchment level models are also capable of assessing the effects of assumptions on the cost-effective solutions, and can therefore be used to assess the uncertainties associated with wrong or limited information.
»Decision support tools at catchment and national levels

Finally, there are DSTs to assess the benefits of water quality protection. Two different approaches are presented, and they can be used for general and more spatially specific assessments and measurements of the value of protection.

  • MAES: Mapping and Assessments of Ecosystem Services. This is an European level decision support system (DSS) developed by the EU Commission, JRC (Maes et al 2012). Examples from implementation of a similar ecosystem services assessment tool in the Danish case study area in FAIRWAY, called MAES-DK, are used for illustration, as well as a similar example from the UK (The UK National Ecosystem Assessment, UK NEA (Bateman et al., 2011)).
  • Meta analyses (benefit transfer) of valuation studies of water quality improvements: Two examples were chosen for illustration, namely:
    - An international groundwater valuation study applying meta-analysis (Brouwer and Neverre, 2018).
    - A Danish meta-analysis based on valuation studies from the Nordic countries, valuing water quality improvements using the Water Framework Directive classification of ecological status. Structure of the deliverable

The benefits measured by these methods can be used to make cost-benefit analyses of protection or other policy scenarios and decisions.
»Decision support tools for assessments of benefits


 Related articles

Main authors: **
FAIRWAYiS Editor: Jane Brandt
Source document: D5.4: Recommendation report/ synthesis report on decision-support systems A report will be delivered, describing the development of a decision-support framework for advice, training and communication strategies to establish common awareness for diffuse pollution of vulnerable drinking water resources among farmers. [42]


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