What a year it has been. Many will think back to it as the COVID-19 year. Still, the Interreg 2 Seas PROWATER project can look back on a number of great achievements. Therefore, we take you back to the PROWATER highlights of 2020.
Don’t forget to subscribe to the online PROWATER Midterm Event on 11 March 2021, if you want to learn more about our achievements so far.
The PROWATER ‘water system maps’ developed by the University of Antwerp are becoming very popular (fig.1). Project partners continue to apply this spatial prioritization tool to implement Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) measures targeted at improved water infiltration and retention in the landscape.
Based on this crucial planning step, project partners were able implement their first EbA measures against drought in the PROWATER demonstration sites. The province of Antwerp has completed the restoration of the Scheppelijke Nete valley. The area has been cleared of obstacles and over a large area topsoil has been removed to reduce nutrients and restore water storage capacity (fig.2). People can now see how nature takes over again. In demonstration site Den Rooy, Natuurpunt restored the raised bog by repairing a leak, allowing the raised bog to retain more water (fig.3). Pidpa has started excavation work in Oostmalle to remove topsoil and plant the first alders in 2021 as a step towards creating a larger wet alder forest (fig. 4). The partnership between South East Rivers Trust, Kent County Council and South East Water have had several hectares of grassland in the Beult and Nailbourne catchments in Kent re-seeded in collaboration with the two farmers involved with a species mix that will help to break up the deeper soil layer and improve drainage and infiltration (fig.5).
The PROWATER water system maps are also in high demand beyond the PROWATER project. They are used in numerous planning projects, including cross-border projects along the Belgian-Dutch border. Several municipal water management plans in Flanders are now drafted based on the maps and almost all waste water managers have requested them for a total of more than 100 Flemish municipalities.
Besides demonstrating the implementation of EbA measures, it is important to PROWATER to continuously expand the evidence base for their positive impact on water retention and infiltration in the landscape. Soil moisture profile probes (fig.6) installed in Friston Forest and Lullington Heath by the South East Rivers Trust, South East Water and Kent County Council partnership are celebrating their one year anniversary. These probes will provide data to quantify the effect of habitat conversion on groundwater levels in the aquifer beneath the trial area. Now, as tree felling and shrub and gorse clearance is about to start, we have a year of baseline data ready to assess the impact of the trials against.
In addition to the impact of EbA measures on water retention and infiltration in the landscape, PROWATER aims to develop an impact analysis tool to quantify the larger set of ecosystem services resulting from EbA measures. As a first crucial step, the University of Antwerp in collaboration with South East Rivers Trust and Westcountry Rivers Trust delivered a review of quantification methods for ecosystem services of Ecosystem-based Adaptation measures to drought risks.
The report “Risks, challenges and opportunities for sustainable water resources in the United Kingdom, Belgium and the Netherlands” has been signed off as a baseline document for PROWATER communications, encompassing the PROWATER rationale.
Finally, waterschap Brabantse Delta, the University of Antwerp, the province of Antwerp and the Flemish Government (Departement Omgeving) held the first of a total of three workshops, developing a participatory approach to long-term vision building to tackle drought and sustainable water supply in the border area of the Campine lowland brooks (provinces of Antwerp and North Brabant). Similar workshops will be organized in all project regions in the spring of 2021.
It has been a unique year, no one will doubt that. For now, we look forward to a new year with new goals.
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