Nature

This European pilot will be carried out in two characteristic nature areas in NWE (located in Twente in the Netherlands and in Sommerset in United Kingdom).Twente (waterschap Vechtstromen) consist of wetlands with peat soils and Sommerset ( has: natural grasslands and brook valleys on slightly higher elevated sandy soils, with close proximity to agricultural lands. Two DROP partners (NWE regional partners from Twente and Somerset) will jointly design, jointly evaluate and jointly disseminate the results of this European pilot for NWE regions. The project actions include drafting of an integrated (ground) water management plans for these areas, and the test implementation of small scale water efficiency and water allocation measures on these lands aimed at securing (ground) water levels and a balanced division of available water for nature and adjacent agricultural lands. The 2 DROP partners will investigate new solutions with regard to securing sufficient water, and also secure stable ground water levels for nature areas.

The EU pilot on nature will be tested in UK and NL. The lowlands of Somerset are typical wetland areas on peat, affected by drought. Peat areas require a typical regime in water levels. NWE has a lot of regions where smaller nature areas are in close proximity to agricultural areas. This creates a strong interrelation between nature and agriculture when it comes to water (multi-user). Water demands of agriculture and nature are conflicting. A typical NWE region, with sandy soils, is the Twente area in the Netherlands. Agricultural and nature areas are located adjacent to each other. The natural seepage sources in these areas are threatened while flora will be affected by changing groundwater levels. Extreme weather events will cause peaks in water levels which can be harmful for nature (flora), while drought will exacerbate the demand of water in both agricultural and nature areas: This EU pilot will develop and test innovative ways to tackle this transnational issue.

Results so far

Twente [nature]

In the Twente area of Vechtstromen we found a close collaboration in multi-stakeholder committees, both at the levels of administrators and project managers. In these committees trust relations have been built and each other’s goals and visions are taken into account. This collaborative way of working is a great asset that provides coherence and enables successful measures. However, it can also be seen as a necessary and relatively successful adaptation to deal with an inherently rather incoherent and fragmented governance context. The responsibilities and resources for implementing measures for instance are so fragmented that mutual consultation is recognized as the only way to proceed, creating a fragmentation-coherence paradox.  While normally fragmentation would lead to stalemates and ultimately disinterest in the topic, in this context of sufficient positive experiences with mutual cooperation it has led to a recognition that the various parties need each other and to the absence of fear that one of them will become too dominant. Nationally the recognition of the drought resilience problem is still at an early phase. Thus there is only legitimacy for soft voluntary approaches to prevention policies and measures. This approach is also rooted in the general Dutch consensual political culture (the so-called “polder model”). This forms a setting in which building and using well-functioning partnerships with as many stakeholders as possible, both allies and potential opponents, is the best way to make the most of the situation and create the best likelihood of success. We observe that the administrators and project managers of the water authority understand this very well and are doing a good job at realizing it this way.

Somerset [nature]

The drought period in the South of England in 2010-2012 had created substantial momentum to improve the processes of drought and water scarcity adaptation, preparation, and communication. There are a number of ways that drought and water scarcity are included in water resources or crisis planning of various stakeholders including the regional Water Companies, the Environment Agency, the Irrigation Drainage Board, and a range of other community and council stakeholders. Compared to other regions in the DROP project the level of understanding of impacts of climate change for drought and water scarcity across various stakeholders, and the development of a range of adaptation measures, was relatively advanced. However, one issue that was raised during our governance consultation was the relatively fragmented way that these policies and plans were implemented – perhaps a legacy of the privatisation but regulated context of the water industry in England. There was a recognition during this drought period that there was a need to ‘link up’ communication of the adaptive measures needed to deal with the drought, and to create a less fragmented process of dealing with periods of drought and water scarcity within and across affected regions. As such, during and after this period of drought there was an increased emphasis on coordinating responses to drought and water scarcity across stakeholders. This was seen to somewhat overcome the fragmented way that drought and water scarcity had been experienced, planned for, and communicated in the past. However, as the area is also prone to flooding (e.g., as occurred in the winters 2012 and 2013/14), the challenge for Somerset is to avoid maladaptation between these two policy areas and to integrate the adaptive measures for flood and drought and future periods of climatic extremes.  There are examples of this emerging – for example in the activities of the pilot partners in the DROP project, and the voluntary best practice models of catchment management implemented by water companies such as Wessex Water to deal with water quality (and therefore quantity) issues. How to provide vision and support for the scaling up of such approaches that facilitate effective adaptation policy and implementation for drought and flooding will be critical as the region moves forward in its recovery of the 2013/2014 flood events, and pushes forward into a period of greater climate extremes.

Project

Investigations

Level-dependent drainage around nature conservation areas as a buffer measure

In the present study, we intend actually constructing a system of level-dependent drainage and/or shallow intensive drainage, in combination with raising the drainage basis and/or surface water level in the hydrological influence area of a small water-depleted nature conservation area. The aim is to better serve both nature and agriculture from the hydrological perspective – definitely during long periods of drought – while preventing water damage as much as possible. The project is at Duivelshof (a small nature conservation area in Northeast Twente that are surrounded by water-depleted area of intensive agriculture)