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.
Water safety planning
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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 of drinking water resources demands a combination of input reduction, farm system redesign and point source mitigation.
Decision support tools
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.