OPtimal strategies to retAIN and re-use water and nutrients in small agricultural catchments across different soil-climatic regions in Europe

01 September 2020 → 31 August 2025
European funding: framework programme
Research disciplines
  • Natural sciences
    • Surfacewater hydrology
water re-use
Other information
Project description
Natural/Small Water Retention Measures (NSWRMs) can help mitigate the conflicts between agricultural water uses (e.g. plant production, animals) and other human and environmental demands for water, including drinking water or maintaining environmental flow. This is crucial, since these conflicts will be probably exacerbated by an increasing number of extreme events such as droughts and heavy rainfall. A more careful management of head watersheds will significantly contribute to a more resilient agriculture and society. Moreover, NSWRMs are contributing simultaneously to the achievement of different Sustainable Development Goals and environmental targets formulated in several water- and agriculture-related European Union policies. Despite a comprehensive set of techniques available to increase water retention on both catchment and farm levels, knowledge is still lacking on the effectiveness of different scale- and region-specific measures across various soilclimatic regions and agricultural systems, especially under changing climate conditions. OPTAIN aims to (i) identify efficient techniques for the retention and reuse of water and nutrients in small agricultural catchments across Continental, Pannonian and Boreal biogeographical regions of Europe, taking into account potential synergies with existing drainage-irrigation systems, and - in close cooperation with local actors - (ii) select NSWRMs at farm and catchment level and optimize their spatial allocation and combination, based on environmental and economic sustainability indicators. By building on existing knowledge and addressing these objectives, OPTAIN will improve the Technological Readiness Level of NSWRMs for the benefit of both humans and ecosystems. All gained knowledge will be translated into a learning environment allowing analysis of trade-offs and synergies between multiple values/goals in the management and design of NSWRMs.

Role of Ghent University
Ghent University leads one of the case studies and contributes to several work packages.