Linking Water and Agriculture Science to Policy

The WATERAGRI Conference, titled “Linking Water and Agriculture Science to Policy,” took place in Brussels, Belgium, on 6 March 2024, at the Nordic House. This significant event, funded by the EU Horizon Research & Innovation project, aimed to bridge the gap between water management, agricultural science, and policy-making. The conference was a platform to address the pressing challenges of climate change and the increasing demands on water resources, which threaten sustainable agriculture in Europe. By convening leading scientists, policymakers, and high-level stakeholders, the event fostered a critical dialogue on integrating scientific research and policy innovation, offering a promising path towards the sustainability of Europe’s agricultural sector.

The conference featured keynote speeches from experts in the European Commission’s policy sector, alongside presentations by eminent researchers specialising in water and environmental science. These sessions focused on the latest scientific advancements in sustainable water use in agriculture and the development of policy frameworks to support efficient and sustainable farming practices. The discussions aimed to foster collaboration between the scientific community and policymakers, thus paving the way for integrated solutions that benefit both the environment and the agricultural industry.

Rolf Larsson, the Coordinator of the WATERAGRI project, underscored the conference as a pivotal step toward closing the gap between scientific research and policy-making. The urgency of translating cutting-edge science into actionable policies was palpable, as it ensures water sustainability and agricultural productivity for future generations. The WATERAGRI project, under the theme “Water retention and nutrient recycling in soils and streams for improved agricultural production,” is a beacon of hope, focusing on enhancing agricultural water management and preventing nutrient and top-soil loss, thereby securing affordable food production in Europe.

This conference, a collaborative effort of leading scientists, policymakers, and high-level stakeholders, represented a milestone in addressing the intertwined issues of water management, agricultural sustainability, and policy innovation. It marked a forward leap in our collective quest for sustainable agricultural practices in the face of global environmental challenges, making each of us a crucial part of this journey.

Policy briefs:

The WATERAGRI Conference in Brussels on 6th March 2024 was a significant milestone in aligning agricultural science, water management, and policy-making to promote sustainable farming practices within the European Union. This project accelerated the shift from theoretical research to practical policy frameworks, addressing the pressing challenges of climate change and the growing pressure on water resources. The WATERAGRI project, in collaboration with UNU-CRIS, led to the development of two groundbreaking policies aimed at enhancing the sustainability of agriculture through innovative water management and nutrient recycling practices. These policies were presented during the event in Brussels and are available for download in the section below.

Author(s): Tamara Avellan, Alba Canet-Martí, Eriona Canga, Valentina Guerrieri, Simone Amadori, Aashna Mittal, Stevo Lavrnić, Marco Hartl, Nidhi Nagabhatla
Publication Date: 2024
Pages: 10
Series Title: UNU-CRIS Policy Brief
Publication Language: EN
Copyright Year: 2024
Policy Brief Type: UNU-CRIS Policy brief

Author(s): Tamara Avellán, Nidhi Nagabhatla, Bishal Dahal and Amal Sarsour
Publication Date: 2024
Pages: 10
Series Title: UNU-CRIS Policy Brief
Publication Language: EN
Copyright Year: 2024
Policy Brief Type: UNU-CRIS Policy brief


Time Item People
08:30 – 09:00 Registration and morning coffee Brussels Office team,
Rolf Larsson
09:00 – 09:10

Welcome and Introduction

Opening remarks and overview of the meeting’s objectives and relevance to the EC

Rolf Larsson

09:10 – 09:35

Keynote Presentation, Part I:

The longer term needs for water by agriculture and how the Water Framework Directive may help

Saskia Onnink,

09:35 – 10:30

Strategies for the effective implementation of the WFD in Agricultural Contexts.

Case studies on integrated water management in small agricultural catchments:

Modern tools for Integrated Water Management – WATERAGRI Framework

Sustainable methods for Water and Nutrient Retention – Wetlands

Natural Water Retention Measures on a catchment scale – (OPTAIN)

Innovative ways of Stakeholders’ Engagement

Serious game, AgriLemma

Film, “One Day we will dance with You”

Philip Brunner

Stevo Lavrnic

Martin Volk

Aashna Mittal

Kate Adams

10:30 – 10:40

Movie Screening

“One Day We Will Dance with You”

Kate Adams

10:40 – 11:00 Coffee break  
11:00 – 11:25

Key note presentation Part II:

Potential future EU legislation and actions to support sustainable water management in agriculture

Patrick Kelly,

11:25 – 11:50

Policy Brief presentation:

“Constructed Wetlands: Enhancing Sustainable Water Management in Agriculture”

“Integrating Gender Perspectives in Agricultural Water Management”

Tamara Avellan**

Nidhi Nagabhatlha

Alba Canet Marti

Eriona Canga**

11:50 – 12:30

Panel Discussion: Linking Policies to Practice

Bridging the Gap: From Research to EU Policies to On-Ground Implementation.

Rolf Larsson
Martin Volk
Ilyas Masih
Tamara Avellan
Nidhi Nagabhatla
Luis Sanchez-Alvarez
12:30 – 14:00 Lunch and Networking
14:00 – 16:00

Serious Game


Possibility to play the game

Aashna Mittal
Alba Canet Marti

Keynote presentations

Aashna Mittal

Aashna Mittal, Ph.D. candidate at TU Delft, develops AgriLemma serious game for water management, blending engineering, policy, and game design to address real-world issues.

Dr. Kate Adams

Dr Kate Adams is a lecturer, interdisciplinary artist, dramaturg and Board Member of Climate Psychology Alliance. She has over 20 years’ experience as a practitioner and now brings her expertise into improving awareness and engagement with climate adaptation and sustainability.

Prof. Dr. Martin Volk

Prof. Dr. Martin Volk is a Dead of the Department of Computational Landscape Ecology at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ in Leipzig, Germany, and is a professor at the Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg.

Saskia Onnink

Saskia Onnink, MBA is Policy officer at DG ENV. Saskia is an all-round water professional, with much experience in flood risk management and water quality at the regional, national and international levels.

Dr. Tamara Avellan

Tamara Avellán is a water specialist focusing on the Water-Energy-Food Nexus, sustainable practices, and bridging science-policy gaps, with global research and educational roles.

Dr. Rolf Larsson – WATERAGRI Project Coordinator

Dr. Rolf Larsson is a senior lecturer at Water Resources Engineering, faculty of Engineering at Lund University, Sweden. His research background is broad, with CFD, snow hydrology, urban hydrology and urban flood management.

Alba Canet Marti

Alba Canet Martí is a researcher and PhD candidate at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) in Vienna, Austria. She is an environmental scientist who completed her master’s degree in Hydraulic Engineering and Environment at the Universitat Politècnica de València, Spain.

Dr. Eriona Canga

Eriona Canga is an Environmental Scientist and Project Manager at alchemia-nova. She holds a Ph.D. in Agroecology from Aarhus University, Denmark (2014), along with B.Sc.’s and M.Sc.’s degrees in Environmental Sciences and Technologies from Padua University, Italy (2010).

Dr. Ilyas Masih

Dr. Ilyas Masih is an Associate of Water Resources planning at IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, Delft the Netherlands. He holds a PhD degree in hydrology and water resources from TU Delft and UNESCO-IHE Delft, the Netherlands.

Dr. Nidhi Nagabhatla

Dr. Nidhi Nagabhatla is an environmental governance, water security, and climate resilience expert [>23 years of experience in >35 countries and over 200 publications]. Currently, she leads Nature, Climate, and Health program at UNU CRIS.

Patrick Kelly

Experienced agronomist/policy analyst with a demonstrable track record in the agriculture and food sector. Skilled in Policy Analysis, operational delivery with a constant focus on effective and efficient outcomes for clients.

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