Water farms – improving farming and its impact on the supply of drinking water
Agriculture is the biggest source of pesticides and nitrate pollution in European fresh waters. The quality of drinking water, which matters a lot to EU citizens, and the level and cost of treatment prior to consumption depend greatly on the quality of the ground-water and surface-water used to produce it. This is partly why the Water Framework Directive (WFD), linked to the Drinking Water Directive, puts such emphasis on the protection of ground-water and surface-water resources. The diffuse pollution of water sources from the pesticides and fertilisers used in farming systems has been addressed with varying degrees of success by current policy tools but clearly remains an obstacle to achieving the WFD objectives. Monitoring such pollution is also challenging because of the high number of registered pesticides, the cost of analyses and the need for samples to be taken during periods of application and use, and in various weather conditions. Additionally, the time dynamics of water resource systems entail a delay between action at the soil surface and reaction in the ground-water. Appropriate monitoring and decision-support tools are needed to help develop and implement governance models to preserve the quality of drinking water resources.
Proposals will entail a variety of case studies identifying good practices in the field of drinking-water management involving improved farming systems and land-use management; these will cover a variety of pedo-climatic conditions, vulnerable zones with different types of farming systems, contrasting legal frameworks, larger and smaller water collection areas, including rural and urban areas and only rural areas with a focus on small water supplies, which face the biggest problems in the EU and globally. The effectiveness of various measures in mitigating diffuse agricultural pollution will be analysed. Work will include cost-efficiency analysis of mitigation measures and cost-benefit analysis for the society and the actors concerned of identified preventive and curative options for the delivery of high-quality drinking water. Transition pathways from "paying for depolluting" to "rewarding farming systems delivering water quality" options shall be investigated, taking into account various temporal and spatial scaling issues. Governance models, including private spring-water companies and public water-supply bodies, will be investigated. The project will deliver improved public policy instruments and decision support for the various alternatives, including monitoring and control tools, taking into account the necessary cooperation and regional partnerships. Proposals will develop harmonised, transparent and understandable indicators to ensure reliable and comparable data in order to involve farmers and citizens. Proposals should fall under the concept of the 'multi-actor approach'.
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of up to EUR 5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude the submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
- good cooperation between stakeholders on pesticides, fertilisers and irrigation management practices capable of reducing point source and diffuse pollution in different contexts;
- harmonised datasets on pesticide and fertiliser contamination of the drinking-water resources;
- greater involvement of farmers and other citizens in the monitoring of water quality;
- water governance models that are more conductive to the adoption and long-term durability of efficient on-farm and land-use strategies; and
- integrated scientific support for relevant EU policies (e.g. Common Agricultural Policy, Water Framework Directive, sustainable use of pesticides).