Key messages distilled from FAIRWAY's research results, written for specific audiences.
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Multi-actor platforms are important for joint strategy setting, but only one step towards achieving impacts
Multi-actor platforms are valuable in building networks and creating a common understanding about complex issues in the agriculture-water governance interface. While they are important for setting joint strategies, they might not be sufficient to achieve desired impacts.
Multi-actor platforms need a clear mandate and political anchorage in order to be relevant and meaningful
Multi-actor platforms that have been able to establish relationships and networks with other institutions such as water companies, agricultural and environmental authorities, farmers and civil society have a better foundation for long-term meaningful engagement for improved water quality.
More participation is not enoughMulti-actor platforms alone will not allow for interaction with a sufficient number of farmers in the agricultural-water domain; additional engagement strategies are needed.
Pressure for change and a common understanding of the problemPressure for change to improve water quality and a common understanding of the problem are prerequisites for meaningful engagement in water governance.
Water safety planning
Engagement of stakeholders in Water Safety Planning is essential
During all phases of Water Safety Planning, engagement of stakeholders in the development of the methodology and content is essential. Establishing cooperation between large and small suppliers contributes to overcoming barriers for effective risk assessment and management for small suppliers.
Monitoring & indicators
Access to consistent databases is necessary for monitoring water quality
Monitoring groundwater quality, detecting pollution sources and evaluating mitigation measures have to be done to ensure a safe, sustainable drinking water supply for citizens. Hence, it is necessary to have access to consistent databases that enable scientists to link pollution and mitigation measures to water quality.
Lag times exist between between leaching and aquifer impact
Water and nitrate transfer through geological material is not instantaneous. There is a lag time between agricultural nitrogen leaching from the fields and its impact on water quality in aquifers, and wells. This time lag should be taken into account when developing drinking-water protection strategies.
Nitrogen surplus can be an ambiguous indicator
Nitrogen surplus at the farm or regional level is a useful agri-environmental indicator. However, because Member States apply different calculation methods, comparisons at the European level are ambiguous. As calculation data, particularly on farm level, may not sufficiently represent local conditions and activities, the indicator may not fulfil legal certainty.
Measures to reduce nitrate losses need real-world validation
For measures to reduce nitrate losses, there is a discrepancy between the type of field- or trial-based measures tested and reported in literature and real-world farm-level management options that are used or reported in the case studies.
Measures to reduce nitrate leaching can risk pollution swapping
Implementation of measures to reduce nitrate losses should consider not only their effectiveness, and costs, but also the likelihood of (unwanted) side-effects such as pollution swapping to emissions of ammonia, nitrous oxide and phosphate.
Reduction of pesticide pollution demands a combination of actions
Reduction of pesticide pollution of drinking water resources demands a combination of input reduction, farm system redesign and point source mitigation.
Decision support tools
Decision support tools help optimize yield and prevent pollution
Decision support tools are helpful in advising farmers about best practices in the application of fertilizers and pesticides, in order to both optimize crop yield and prevent water pollution problems.
Few management tools consider the impact of mitigation methods
Many farm management tools promoting smart nutrient and/or pesticide use are available, but only a few explicitly consider the impact of mitigation methods on water quality.
There are obstacles to exchanging decision support tools between countries
Although most EU countries already have comparable decision support tools, designed to address similar problems, there are obstacles to exchanging the tools between countries.
Policy & governance
Capacity at local level is needed for good drinking water quality
Good drinking water quality delivery requires sufficient capacity at the local level to ensure that implementation of policies and law results in effective local action. This includes feedback mechanisms and intersectoral learning.
Improved coherence in EU policy will strengthen protection of drinking water resources
Improving correlations between directives, policies, objectives and requirements, including cross-referencing them, will strengthen the overall policy framework towards protection of drinking water resources from agricultural pressures.
Structural policy choices can reduce inputs and pressures at source
Economic pressures in agriculture severely limits farmers’ room to maneuver. The effect of local optimisation processes is only a fraction of what can be achieved with more structural policy choices that reduce inputs and pressures at their source.
Science & policy support
Barriers to water quality protection relate to lack of political will and scarce instruction
Barriers to protection of water quality in the EU are mostly observed at the national or regional levels and relate to lack of political will, and scarce instruction on the process of legislation implementation. Project clustering is a strategy to make science more connected to policy challenges and stakeholder needs.
Potential synergies exist for evidence-based practices
There are potential synergies for evidence-based practices for reducing nitrate and pesticide pollution of drinking water resources, regarding their applicability, adoptability, and costs across EU.