In the Netherlands and Belgium good quality of water has become increasingly scarce. Groundwater tables have fallen and competition among water users is increasing. In 1998 a project was set up with the objectives of conserving water quality and increasing water use efficiency in agriculture.
The stakeholders include farmers, provincial authorities in Belgium and The Netherlands, water boards, and drinking water companies. The involvement of farmers and other water users has been of great importance. Improved water use efficiency and water conservation have been achieved by implementing measures at the farm level.
Some examples of this include installing small weirs, and measuring groundwater levels and soil moisture content. Farmers have been involved in the design and implementation, and are responsible for the operation of the system. Farmers have been educated in water management and in assessing the implications of their measurements.
Communication and stakeholder participation were crucial in the development of the project and have meant that:
- Farmers have been willing to install and operate weirs effectively, which was essential for the success of the project.
- There has been greater mutual trust between Dutch and Flemish partners.
- Transboundary knowledge transfer has led to greater insight into the opportunities and techniques of applying water saving measures.
- Farmers and market gardeners have a greater awareness of the importance of water and are willing to take part in future water management activities.
Importance of the case for IWRM
The present case illustrates the importance of involving farmers and other water users initially, so that they feel a sense of responsibility and motivation to introduce new approaches.
The programme “Water management in the Central Benelux area” focuses on practical measures that can be applied by farmers and market gardeners. It is based on sound technical and scientific knowledge of water conservation and water management at the farm level.