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EWP Annual Event Highlights Engagement Needed to Support Public Policy Goals

Oct 6th, 2017 |

EWP’s annual stakeholder conference, addressed the question of “Does Water Stewardship Support the Achievement of Public Policy Goals on Sustainable Water Management and Agriculture?”. The event concluded on Wednesday and hosted several leaders in the field of water stewardship in Europe.

The event was opened by EWP Chairman Fritz Barth who emphasized the progress that has been made since EWP first started working on water stewardship 10 years ago. In his keynote speech, EWS Director, Thomas Vereijken emphasized the common sense approach of water stewardship which combines sustainable targets with economic benefits and its usefulness for approaching complex challenges.

An interview with Peter Newborne of ODI, set the background of the current state of water stewardship and highlighted the need for a link between high level corporate water stewardship actions and on the ground, implementable measures for farmer activities.

Representatives from companies and civil society shared their own experiences on how corporate water stewardship can connect with government actions. Participants shared their experiences on how water stewardship had helped production sites partner with municipalities to reuse water and their perspectives on the role public policy has to set the bar for a wide range of industry representatives to engage in better water management and how in certain cases industry is surpassing what is required by legislation. There was also an important discussion about the role of companies to be more vocal about the importance of water issues and give a mandate to authorities to fill the knowledge gaps when it comes to water management.

Two breakout sessions during the day took a deep dive into the specific sort of incentives that can help support water users in both agriculture and industry to adopt water stewardship practices and how to engage supply chain actors to do the same. Key drivers such as resource savings, operational obligations, embedding water stewardship into a corporate strategy and a strong community of practices were all identified as key drivers. For agriculture in particular, the appropriate allocation of subsidies was identified as the number one driving force behind more sustainable water management.

The event also showcased the work of the first year of EWP’s CAPWaSA platform, engaging actors in collective action on water stewardship in agriculture. The afternoon session of the day showcased some of the best examples of engaging farmers in water stewardship actions and implementing best management practices. Panelists discussed some of the enabling factors for engaging farmers in best water management practices; the close facilitation and training of farmers; monitoring and reporting progress made; the need to work with leading farmers in the catchment; and the close cooperation between authorities and farmers. Collective action was perceived by all participants as imperative and providing evidence that practices are efficient and cost-effective is central to overcome barriers in engaging farmers.

The event was evidence not only of water stewardship as an integral process, but specifically for agriculture, how initiatives are emerging from the bottom up. It is clear that the economic case of water alone will not stimulate action, but support from EU authorities is also needed to help support mid and low level actions of water stewardship and shape it as a discipline and an art of collaboration.

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