The farmer as water manager under changing climatic conditions


The project focused on enabling farmers to act successfully as water managers in changing climatic conditions. The project presented water risk management practices that will reduce the consequences of flooding, droughts, water shortage and nutrient transport.

The emphasis on the farmer as a water manager is contributing towards implementing EU policies, such as the Water Framework Directive. The final result of the project was a water management concept to use as a manual for farmers and a set of recommendations on future land and water management planning.

Aquarius is also represented in the cluster project WaterCAP.

01/01/2009 - 30/06/2012
2 - Promoting the Sustainable Management of our Environment
Area of Intervention
2.3 Adapting to and reducing risks posed to society and nature by a changing climate
ERDF Grant
2,733,095.00 €
ERDF Equivalent
106,050.00 €
Total Eligible Budget
5,819,690.00 €
Lead Beneficiary
The Danish Agricultural Advisory Service, National Centre, Denmark
Irene Asta Wiborg
Tel: +45 87405449
Project Homepage
Beneficiaries per Country
The Danish Agricultural Advisory Service, National Centre, Denmark
Danish Ministry of the Environment, Nature Agency Aalborg
The Netherlands
Hoogheemraadschap van Delfland
Provincie Drenthe
Waterschap Hunze en Aa’s
Landwirtschaftskammer Niedersachsen
County Governor of Østfold
Bioforsk Institute
United Kingdom
Aberdeenshire Council
James Hutton Institute
Halmstad University
Rural Economy and Agricultural Society of Halland
Municipality of Laholm
Regional Development Council
County administration of Halland
Background and Aim

Aquarius aimed to develop the farmer as water manager able to practice sustainable farming under climatic changes with due respect to environmental protection. Farmers can take an active role in the positive management of water resources through partnerships with other farmers, water boards, local and national government.

Within this overall goal Aquarius aimed to: 

  • Identify common and particular constraints on farmers successfully acting as water managers
  • Develop innovative mixes of technical, financial, institutional approaches to integrated land-water management by farmers
  • Test approaches to participation in the cooperative planning and implementation of land-water management initiatives by agencies and farmers
  • Incorporate state-of-the-art research outcomes into management and policy (particularly from climatic changes, agro-ecology and governance)
  • Increase the interaction between land-water stakeholders both locally and across boundaries (local, national and EU) and across sectors (e.g. land, water and recreation)
  • Ensure a legacy by creating demonstration sites and stakeholder networks that will continue to encourage further innovation

Across large areas of rural Europe there is an observable increase in the incidence of extremes of flows and of droughts. Intense rainfall events increase erosion and the input of nutrients and pathogens to water and low flows in drier summers hinder the ability of waters to dilute diffuse inputs with negative consequences for the ecosystem. Such changes are an additional challenge for meeting or maintaining good ecological status for water bodies in the NSR as described in the Water Framework Directive (WFD).

As a response to these problems Aquarius will focus on the implementation of sustainable, integrated, land-water management through engaging with land managers. The partnerships developed in Aquarius will contribute to a balanced implementation of European environmental related policies e.g. European Climate Change Program; the DG Agriculture Climate Action and the Common Agricultural Policy and particularly the WFD. Experiences from participation in EU projects like No Regret and AGWAPLAN will be included in this search for balanced solutions.

This project recognises farmers as key actors for the sustainable management of water and their capacity to aggravate or mitigate extreme flows, droughts and water quality. Successful integrated land-water management depends on developing inclusive partnerships and processes that facilitate the initiation, planning, negotiation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of initiatives.

Successful land-water management partnerships, however, also depend on the existence of appropriate institutional, economic and governance arrangements. Aquarius will assess where there are barriers to farmers acting as water managers and how these may be overcome.

The Aquarius project worked on how to adapt to and reduce risks posed to society and nature by a changing climate.

Aquarius achieved an improved understanding on how to act in order to secure sustainable long lasting solutions. The core idea was to find ways for farmers to become water managers capable of practicing sustainable farming under climatic changes.

In seven pilot studies, Aquiarius experimented on how to find ways of handling droughts, flooding and nutrient leaching through partnerships among different stakeholders. A common baseline report was compiled giving an overview of ecological, economic, sociological, policy and legal and future climate challenges.

A number of key methods for farmers to deal with climate change concerning technical methods; financial methods and participatory planning were identified and shared in the partnership.

The partnership shared conclusions on implementation of technical an advisory measures in order to find an improved transnational approach to implementing plans under WFD etc. in the future.

The Main Findings of the Aquarius project have been compiled in a magazine. It also describes the successful use of a water management concept including the problem solution wheel.

7 fact sheets from the project have been developed:

Active cooperation
Water sensing systems
Multi-functional wetlands
Natural flood management
Specific environmental plans
Rain harvesting
Willow planting

Finally, Recommendations on future land and water management planning have been agreed upon in the partnership. The focus is on understanding the key role of participatory partnerships in order to secure long lasting sustainable solutions.

Project News

Problem Solution Wheel - Aquarius

Denmark - Infra red camera showing where the water leaks

Denmark - Grazing guilds ensure easy acces to water for cows and maintenance of habitat

Denmark - Willows provide reduced N leaching, compliment green energi, and farmers can develop individually

Denmark - Constructed wetlands reduce nutrient loss from drainage, are cost effective, and farmers can develop individually

Denmark - Catch crops between two winter cereal crops results in reduced nitrate leaching, more nitrate for next crops

Denmark - Advisory session on farm scale: Optimizing environment without loss of production

Denmark - Problem: Excess loading of nutrients

Delfland - To support and improve communication in Midden-Delfland, visual representations of ecosystem services were developed with the use of input from all stakeholders.

Delfland - The impact of climate change in Midden-Delfland differs periodically: periods of drought (moistening of polderdikes) alternated by flooding

Delfland - Open water storage as possible ecosystem service in Midden-Delfland is, with the use of input of farmers, investigated in a social cost-benefit analysis.

Delfland - Nature friendly banks prevent land erosion and may improve waterquality. Agrarian maintenance of nature friendly banks (ecosystem service) was successful on a practical level and might be upgraded in Midden-Delfland.

Delfland - Farmers who perform ecosystem services (dredging) also have to deal with the removal of slurry. Feasibility is examined to mix the slurry with cow dung and reed cuttings to use it as soil improver and fertilizer.

Delfland - Empty waterbuffers need to be maintained (mowing) which can be done by farmers (ecosystem service).

Delfland - The pilot Midden-Delfland consist mainly of dairy farms

Delfland - Farmers who perform ecosystem services also have to deal with the removal of biomass (reed cuttings). In Midden-Delfland feasibility is examined to use the cuttings as deep litter, soil improver and fertilizer.

Drenthe - Water conservation with small farmer operated weirs

Drenthe - Using sensors and computer modelling for efficient irrigation

Drenthe - Remote controlled conservation weirs

Drenthe - Pivots are a solution for efficient sprinkling on large scale farms

Drenthe - In dry summer periods the area needs water supply from Ijssel Lake.

Drenthe - Farmers visit Niedersachsen

Drenthe - Aquarius transnational meeting March 2011

Germany - Problem: Increase of deficit of the climatical waterbalance is increasing need for irrigation, which is essentially done from deep groundwater layers. Further extraction is supposed to harm the local small watercourses

Germany - How much water does the creek need?

Germany - Precision-Irrigation: Testing of further innovation. Testing field in Uelzen

Germany - Networking: Hydro-geological Excursion of stakeholders in Uelzen

Germany - Networking: Bilateral Exchanges with farmers from Sweden and the Netherlands

Germany - Groundwater-household: Hydrogeological modelling. Small creeks: Ecological and hydraulical studies

Germany - Open Day at the Experimental Field 2011. Testing varieties on resilience to watershortage; longterm impact of compost to improve waterstorage-capacity of sandy soils; innovative seeding techniques.

Norway - Western lake Vansjø. After many years of swimming ban, swimming is safe again

Norway - Western lake Vansjø . Important recreation area. Algal bloom caused by large phosphorus loads from agriculture

Norway - Research as basis for reduced phosphorus fertilization

Norway - Reduced erosion and phosphorus losses by no soil tillage in autumn

Investment Norway Demonstration 2

Investment Norway Demonstration 1

Norway - Farmer sharing experiences at Aquarius transnational workshop in Norway

Norway - 16 small constructed wetlands have been established

Sweden - River survey - physical disturbance of ex. river bed and fish migratory passages

Sweden - Possible future controlled flooding area

Sweden - Pilot farmer follows his water management plan

Sweden - Local meteorological stations used in the hydrological survey. Farmers are suggested to take over the equipment

Sweden - Farmers establish irrigation groups to secure the water supply

Sweden - Catchment survey - water quantity management is complex due to floods, but also water shortages during summer

Sweden - Breeding bird surveys show higher species number around constructed wetlands

Scotland - The Tarland Burn joins the River Dee just below Aboyne. The village of Aboyne also experiences flooding.

Scotland - Tarland village & road Flooding

Scotland - Tarland Burn Spate. In spate conditions flooding effects adjacent farmland as well as the local villages.

Scotland - Monitoring water quality and quantity at the Macaulay monitoring station on the Tarland Burn

Scotland - Natural Flood Management Workshop in Tarland January 2011

Scotland - Farmers workshop March 2010

Scotland - Aquarius Transnational workshop 2009

Workshop in Norway

Workshop in Norway
Aquarius - Newsletter no.3
Aquarius Project Handbook
Final Steering Group Meeting in Hamburg 29-30 March - Agenda
List of participants - Aquarius End Conference October 2011
Dem Wasser kluge Wege ebnen! - Analysis of acceptance of measures for nitrogen reduction
Pictures from Regional Final Seminar of Aquarius and WaterSense
End conference: Messages from Aquarius to the EU and national systems
End Conference: WaterCAP
End Conference: Learning Session
End Conference: Clustering
End Conference: Results - Water
End Conference: Results - Floods
End Conference: Results - Drought
End Conference: Recommendation matrix
End Conference: Closing day1
End Conference: Introduction
End Conference: Programme for Demonstration Tour
Catchment based advisory in a Danish context - How to succeed
AQUARIUS - Bridging the gaps between science, regulation and practice in water environment management
The Lundgaard’s Creek stakeholder group - A process analysis of the gaps to bridge in order to create win-win solutions in practice
Aquarius and the precautionary principle - A legal analysis of the gaps to bridge in Aquarius in order to create win-win solutions in practice
Conference programme - Science For The Environment. Oct. 2011
Abstracts - SCIENCE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT - ENVIRONMENT FOR SOCIETY. October 2011. Aquarius on page 31
Aquarius - Bridging the gaps between science, regulation and practice in water environment management through stakeholder involvement (CLIWAT Conference 2012)
Nature management in a climate perspective
The farmers as water managers in a changed climate (diPol conference 2011)
Farmers - Motivation and Drivers
Greening of the CAP - How to involve the farmers
Report - Key Methods
Report - Financial Methods
Report - Weirs on remote control
Final report - Swedish workshop June 2011
Final report - Drenthe
Aquarius baseline report - All partners
Aquarius Fact sheet - Denmark
Aquarius Fact sheet - Germany
Aquarius Fact sheet - Sweden
Aquarius Fact sheet - Scotland
Aquarius Fact sheet - Norway
Aquarius Fact sheet - Drenthe
Aquarius Fact sheet - Delfland
The farmer as water manager - Recommendations
De vigtigste resultater fra Aquarius - magasin
Main findings from Aquarius - Magazine
Factors Workshop
Tour Notes
Extreme Effects
Swedish presentation in Sevilla
Newsletter no. 2
Newsletter no. 1
Summary - Technical Methods
Tools and Planning
Report on Participatory Planning

Event Calendar
Events Archive