OPTAIN is a H2020 Research & Innovation project that proposes a social and scientific journey towards the increase and better understanding of the multiple benefits of Natural/Small Water Retention Measures (NSWRMs). NSWRM are multi-functional measures that can be implemented, for instance, in agricultural headwaters to support the retention and management of water and nutrients by using natural means and processes, which significantly contributes to a more resilient agriculture and society. Despite a comprehensive set of techniques available to increase water retention in catchments and on farms, knowledge is still lacking on the effectiveness of the different measures across soil-climatic regions and agricultural systems, especially under changing climate conditions.
OPTAIN aims to increase this knowledge for small agricultural catchments across European Continental, Pannonian and Boreal regions. Furthermore, OPTAIN aims to increase acceptance and better implementation of NSWRM by showing under which weather/climate conditions, on which location in the catchment and in which measure combinations NSWRM perform best, considering environmental and socio-economic indicators. This is done by elaborating from the current state of knowledge, the experience of stakeholders from 14 case studies involved in the project and innovative scientific modelling and optimization approaches. All gained knowledge will be translated into a Learning Environment allowing analysis of trade-offs and synergies between multiple values and goals in the management and design of NSWRMs.
A central and innovative element of OPTAIN is its harmonized approach across all 14 case studies, which requires the collaboration of all case studies and work packages throughout the project. Since the project has been kicked off in September 2020, this harmonized framework guided, for example, the establishment of a Multi-Actor Reference-Group (MARG) in each case study. Local actors have been involved, either as partners, or stakeholders, to support the investigation but also being the end-user of project results. Within the first 18 months, OPTAIN reached and involved more than 700 local actors in more than 60 direct engagement activities (e.g. organized workshops, and interviews). The actors exchanged experiences on the impacts and effectiveness, implementation potential and limiting factors of NSWRM. Furthermore, about 100 actors have been interviewed regarding local legislation and governance arrangements. Moreover, also following the harmonized approach, guidelines and common protocols addressing actor involvement, data retrieval, NSWRM documentation, policy analysis and model setups have been developed. Innovative solutions for data retrieval and modelling are in development and OPTAINs methods, tools and data will be a valuable benefit for the scientific audience and professional experts