Read about our completed pilot project.
The RISE-sponsored pilot project for sustainable water management in the Leie River Basin, in Flanders has been successfully completed as the project developers – The European Water Partnership gear up to officially launch the European Water Stewardship (EWS) system on November 24th at the Royal Academy in Brussels. Check out the programme of the event here.
In May 2011, the European Water Partnership and the RISE Foundation formed a partnership in order to fund a pilot test for the European Water Stewardship (EWS) system which has been pioneered by the EWP. The EWS system is an integrative system for business and agriculture which has been developed to change the behaviour and practices of water users to help them achieve the status of sustainable water managers. The EWS is a recognised initiative of the Global Alliance for Water Stewardship and has been spearheaded by a consortium of leading experts from around the world with the ambition of setting basic standards for water stewardship worldwide. Concretely, the EWS consists of a standard, with referring glossary and guiding documents, and an evaluation system designed to help water users measure the sustainability of their water use and provide tried and tested solutions to improve and secure water availability in the future. In practice, an external audit is carried out – based on site-specific indicators and local factors (and determined with the expertise of the auditors) – to evaluate the current water resources management of farmers. Based on the results of the audit, several guidelines or response strategies are offered to farmers to improve their water management and ultimately to reach the sustainable water management level set out in the standard.
The pilot project took place in the Leie River basin, an area where only 5-20% of groundwater bodies are not at risk of failing to meet the legal requirements of the Water Framework Directive. Therefore the project is a pre-emptive attempt to improve the sustainable common management of this river basin which requires that all major water users, including farmers, but also industrial actors, work together and understand their role as individual water stewards.
This pilot project, along with others across Europe, revealed that there is still a long way to go before we reach the goal of sustainable water management across many river basins in Europe. A number of indicators from this case study show that improvements in water management still need to be made (to read the full final project please click here.)
All EWS pilot projects that have been carried out so far across Europe, have highlighted the need to improve the advisory services available to farmers and the outreach programmes at river basin level. In this way the individual farm practices will improve and in turn have a collective impact on a larger scale. It is supposed that this could be best achieved by using existing farmers organisations to organise group training and certification schemes. Therefore, a logical next step following the roll-out of the EWS on 24th November, would be to set up a training programme with sufficient training material for both advisors and farmers to be able to implement the feedback coming from the EWS evaluations. RISE plans to actively work with the EWS to help develop this next stage of the project and looks forward to continuing its fruitful partnership with them!