In May-June 2015 DROP has been ‘on tour’ to visit several relevant agencies and people at EU-level in order to disseminate the results and recommendations of the project. This European tour started with a meeting with Albert Vermuë, Secretary-General of the European Union Water Management Association. We (Hans Bressers from University Twente and Susan Lijzenga and Nanny Bressers from Vechtstromen) presented our work and showed him the short video of the Governance Assessment Tool (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMiAZjnHlDU).
We discussed the issues of drought adaptation and drought awareness from both his experience as Secretary-General of the EUWMA, as well as his role as director at the Dutch Union of Water boards. These roles reinforce one another and allow for seeking smart combinations in drought adaptation. We discussed several possible future actions, among which the distribution of our ‘policy brief’, the discussion of DROP and more broadly drought during the annual EUWMA meeting, and possible conversations or presentations in the Netherlands in commissions of the Union of Water Boards and other relevant groups.
On May 12 a delegation from the DROP-project (Rodrigo Vidaurre and Ulf Stein from Ecologic, Hans Bressers from University Twente and Susan Lijzenga from Vechtstromen) visited the European Environment Agency in Copenhagen. After a presentation of DROP the discussion unfolded towards several matters. First, how it is possible that drought awareness is limited whilst the impact of drought on agriculture and nature is large enough to have a significant impact on the economy. Despite this visible and researched effect the issue is still barely part of the political agenda in (Northwest) Europe. Second, policies and measures in each country and region are partially chosen by habit. More insight in the governance context, especially when undertaken in a comparative analysis such as in DROP, helps to create awareness of other possible policies and measures and to open people’s mind to the fact that more than one way can help to accomplish drought adaptation goals. For more information, see the blog we wrote on this visit: http://www.dropproject.eu/end-meeting-with-the-european-environment-agency-eea/.
On June 22nd Hans Bressers (University Twente) and Nanny Bressers (Vechtstromen) went to Brussels for two meetings. First we met with member of the European Parliament Bas Eickhout. We discussed the results of DROP and the type of measures undertaken by the practice partners. He was very interested in hearing our thoughts on getting drought on the European agenda. We discussed strategies such as ‘piggy-backing’ (drought as part of other topics that are more prominent on the political agenda) and ‘plan in the drawer’ (having a drought adaptation policy plan ready, for when severe drought occurs). The latter strategy makes use of the sense of urgency that occurs when significant impacts of drought can be noticed. However, as discussed at the EEA, the impact of drought is often seen too little, despite the consequences for agriculture and nature – and through that the economy. All the more important to make use of small moments of urgency when a drought does occur and there is public attention for the topic! If a policy plan has yet to be written when a drought occurs the window of opportunity that was created by the drought will be gone before the plan is finished.
After our meeting with Bas Eickhout we continued our Brussels visit with a meeting at DG Environment, Unit Water. Here, we presented the results and recommendations of DROP. After that a lively discussion started about drought and the connections between DROP and European policies. Especially the role of the EU in DROP was a topic of interest. We have explained how the project looked ‘bottom-up’, from the realization of pilot projects to governance circumstances that facilitate or hamper that realization, and how not only local circumstances but also regional, national and in many instances European directives play a role. At the end of the meeting we have handed out our practice measures example book and the governance assessment guide, along with copies of the policy brief we drafted some weeks earlier for distribution in the WFD Strategic Coordination Group through our contact person at the Unit Water. We also received input from them about their work on natural water retention measures (NWRM, see www.nwrm.eu) and agreed to stay in touch for any future exchange.