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Collaborative Technological Plateform for implementation for WDF within agricultural context (CONCERT"EAU)
Start date: Oct 1, 2006, End date: Sep 30, 2009 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Background The impact of agriculture on Europe’s water resources will have to be reduced if the quality of surface and groundwater is to be improved. The agricultural soils of EU countries contain large nitrogen surplus that can potentially pollute both surface and groundwater. Furthermore, in many European countries pesticides contaminate the drinking water. The regional economy of the Adour-Garonne River Basin District is more dependent on agriculture than in the rest of France, as 50% of its total area is dedicated to agricultural activities. Not surprisingly, high levels of nitrate, as well as atrazine, simazine, diuron, alachlor and lindane have been found in over 40% of sites recently surveyed in the region. Objectives The “Concert’Eau” project’s main objective was to demonstrate the feasibility of a collaborative technological platform (CTP). This would support the integrative management of agriculture and reduce its impacts on water and the related aquatic ecosystems of the Gascogne river basin in the Adour-Garonne district, in accordance with the Water Framework Directive’s (WFD) requirements. The CTP planned to deliver mitigation measures against several agricultural pressures, as well as an action programme for large-scale cropping, involving key actors such as farmers/ cooperatives and agricultural organisations, administrative officials, community leaders, scientists and political leaders. The CTP would include a high-tech toolbox to simulate and evaluate mitigation measures through a web-based collaborative management system. It was planned that these actions should help to significantly decrease nitrate and pesticide concentrations in surface water in the region. Results The project aimed to support the implementation of EU environmental directives, notably the Water Framework Directive (WFD), by enhancing their social acceptability among key farming and water management actors in the region – such as farmers, cooperatives and agricultural organisations, as well as administrative, community and political leaders. This was achieved by organising stakeholder meetings on the development of alternative measures and assessment of the various environmental and economic impacts aimed at reducing the negative impacts of agriculture on water and aquatic ecosystems. The Concert'Eau methodology was demonstrated for large-scale cropping and its impacts on nitrate and pesticide levels in surface waters. The methodology, demonstrated in the Gers Amont territory, was based on the use of high-tech tools (to simulate and evaluate mitigation measures) as well as collaborative work between stakeholders in agriculture and water management. The methodology involved five steps: 1. Defining various scenarios aimed at changing farm practices with socio-economic stakeholders; 2. Simulation of the economic, social and environmental assessment scenarios; 3. Comparison of the various scenarios by using a decision-support system (DSS) adapted from the basic principles of the DSS developed by the MULINO project, such as 'sustainable water use', ‘good ecological status’ etc; 4. Presentation of the various comparable scenarios to socio-economic stakeholders through the collaborative web platform; and 5. Help stakeholders to select suitable options for action programmes. Approximately 150 stakeholders were involved in these processes and of the 60 scenarios proposed, 44 were modelled and compared. It is expected that 42 of these should lead to a decrease of nitrates concentration (under 25 mg l-1 in surface water). A further two should lower the total pesticide average concentration in surface waters (close to 0.5 µg l-1). The methodology developed is transferable, and has already been successfully assessed in the Navarra region of Spain, but failed in the Moselle region in the east of France. Elsewhere, however, the use of Concert’Eau results in the after-LIFE period has been disappointing – with only two of the proposed mitigation measures – (i) the establishment of buffer strips throughout the territory and (ii) the implementation of "crop rotation" measures implemented in the region’s Programme of Actions. There was also some disappointment expressed by the farmers involved in the Concert'Eau participative process, as they maintained that in the end, their viewpoints were not sufficiently taken into account by the relevant authorities. This could be counterproductive for the environmental action in the area, but is unfortunately, beyond the control of the beneficiary. It does, however, highlight the difficulty of getting decision makers to move towards such a ‘bottom-up’ process. The project created a new company "Acceptables Avenirs" to facilitate the method replication. Decision makers in the field of water management at the national and European level will be targeted and the method will be adapted depending on the objectives and means of the client. The legal agreements between partners concerning the usage of the Concert'Eau tools should be signed in July 2010. Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).

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