Agriculture

The European pilot on agriculture in DROP will focus on two elements: 1) joint design, testing and 2) evaluation of drought prediction tools and systems that allow a swift change from high water to low water supplies in agricultural areas. Within the question of drought adaptation for agriculture, two main elements stand out. First, if low flow conditions and soil moisture contents can be predicted with more precision, water allocation to agriculture could be adjusted and optimized. The second mayor element related to climate change and agricultural production is that climate change will result in more extreme weather events; heavy rainfall will be followed by dry periods. Just like stable groundwater levels for nature, agricultural areas should be adjusted to be able to deal with fast changing supplies of water. If water supply to agriculture can shift fast between high and low water flows, the damage to agricultural production will be reduced or prevented.

The EU pilot on agriculture will be executed in NL and BE. Partners Vlaamse Milieumaatschappij (BE) and Waterschap Groot Salland (NL), (NWE regions of Flanders and Salland) will join forces and combine their expertise on drought in agricultural areas to jointly define and jointly evaluate two new drought adaptation measures for agricultural areas transferable to other NWE regions. Climate change may change precipitation patterns and lower the available water in agricultural areas. Mirror drought adaptation measures (forecasting methods and weather-based water control structures) will be carried out by those 2 partners in their regions, but jointly designed and jointly evaluated to generate NWE-wide applicability. Like nature, drought will also impact strongly on agricultural production. Waterschap Groot Salland will test an innovative weather-forecast-based remote-controlled inlet/outlet systems while Vlaamse Milieumaatschappij will further develop forecasting (and decision) models of extreme weather events, to inform agricultural players.

Results so far

Flanders [agriculture]

The observations from the two Governance visits to the Flanders region in Belgium show that the main initiative to push the drought topic comes from Flemish Environment Agency (VMM, also a partner in DROP). As in many DROP case studies, in Flanders awareness for drought issues is lacking in many stakeholder groups. The approach used by VMM is based on making a scientific case for drought action on the part of stakeholders, for instance by developing indicators targeting the agricultural sector. This same approach, in which solid scientific results are used to create awareness of impacts and as basis for a discussion that addresses responses, was already used successfully by VMM in the implementation of the Floods Directive. Therefore an established “organizational logic” is being followed in VMM’s approach to droughts.

Drought problems are already included in some strategies and visions such as the first “Flemish vision on water policy” and the Environmental Policy Plan 2011-2015 “MINA-Plan 4”. In addition, different policy instruments have already been implemented, e.g. groundwater taxes for business users (handpumps and households not included) and groundwater permits. Advisory services for farmers seem to be quite developed and they work towards water saving. Water saving is also supported with actions at house scales as rainfalls harvesting. To sum up, it can be seen that a certain number of drought-related instruments are already implemented, but the instruments are not developed in view of one strategic objective or strategy. The instruments were developed very independently, and for different relevant areas. The result is that there are no main overlaps between instruments, but they are also not supporting each other.

Salland [agriculture]

The Groot Salland Case is characterized by a vivid governance context. We observe this mainly in two governance-related issues. Firstly, the emphasis of national and EU policies on river basin management encourages the water boards in the same sub-basin to act at the regional level. As a major initiative in this direction, the water boards in the Rhine-East sub-basin adopted a common irrigation policy, which covers both surface water and groundwater use and aims to balance the use of water by nature and by agriculture. In the highly extensive and complex actor setting of Dutch water management, the design and implementation of such a regional policy implies both opportunities to improve the regional water system through technical and institutional changes as well as risks of excluding some of the diverse perspectives and concerns. Secondly, the policy priorities and objectives are shifting due to the existing and potential threats of climate change. The increasing understanding on the risks of drought for all water users creates a collaborative environment for all the stakeholders, who combine their efforts in multiple ways, such as projects at different levels and with different features, as well as regional platforms to emphasize the policy urgency regarding both too much and too little water.

 

Project

Waterschap Groot Salland (NL) is located in the center of the Netherlands and involved in the agriculture pilot. The project is part of a larger project in the area called ‘Streukelerzijl’ for which a new catchment has to be created in response to floods in 1998 and on the other hand to dry periods during summer. The water from the new catchment area will be drained by two structures in the catchment itself and one pumping station at the Vecht river. The structures and the pumping station will be double-acting: they will be used for discharging and supplying water to and from the Vecht river. The two weirs end two double-acting pumping stations which are part of the project are now realized. The pumping station at the Vecht river will be built in the future and is not part of the project. The location of the pumping station is yet unclear because a provincial road will be relocated.

The second part of the project is to implement an innovative system for managing the catchment area in a more efficient manner to prevent and reduce damage to agricultural production. Given the projected increase in both periods of droughts and extreme precipitation. It involves a remote-controlled steering mechanism that is linked to weather forecasts and to manage this management system it will be placed at the pumping stations. The authority will start testing the steering mechanism at the two smaller double acting structures as soon as possible (this summer).

The third part of the project is the design of a double-acting pumping station (inlet/outlet) near the Vecht river on which the steering mechanism will also be implemented eventually. The preparation for the planning phase is ongoing, due to uncertainties (i.e. realization provincial road).

For more information on the project Streukelerzijl, visit the website www.wgs.nl/streukelerzijl.

The agriculture pilot is implemented with the Flemish Environmental Agency (Belgium). Drought experts of both organizations participate in six exchanges during which potential measures are designed, discussed and evaluated. The governance team of the DROP project will visit the region twice to define and evaluate the regional governance setting for drought adaptation measures.

For more information about this partner, visit the website of waterschap Groot Salland www.wgs.nl.