A major factor limiting crop production in Europe is water stress, which climate change is expected to exacerbate. Projections suggest that many European regions will experience more frequent extreme weather events, such as droughts and heavy rainfall.
Natural small water retention measures can help mitigate 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.
Despite a comprehensive set of techniques available to increase water retention at both catchment and farm levels, knowledge is still lacking on the effectiveness of different measures across various soil-climatic regions and agricultural systems, especially under changing climate conditions.
The general goal of the EU-funded OPTAIN project is to identify most efficient and easy-to-implement techniques for the retention and reuse of water and nutrients in small agricultural catchments. The project focuses on promising and underutilized water management practices.
In close cooperation with local actors, OPTAIN aims to advance the knowledge on natural small water retention measures. It focuses in particular on their optimal spatial allocation, their environmental and economic sustainability, and their socio-cultural impacts. This will provide new insights on how different management practices are best combined with each other and enable the analysis of multiple benefits, win-win situations, and trade-offs, for the benefit of humans and ecosystems.
The project aims to:
The project will focus on 14 case studies across the Continental, Pannonian, and Boreal biogeographical regions of Europe.
CDE leads the Swiss case study in Broye catchment, which straddles the cantons of Fribourg and Vaud. While the soil and climate of Broye catchment are highly suitable for arable production, the area is experiencing a water shortage. With water availability from the Broye or Petit Glâne streams often insufficient, farmers are considering other ways to mitigate increasing drought events – such as an irrigation project to abstract water from Lake Neuchâtel.
As not all arable areas in the catchment are well connected to irrigation infrastructure, natural small water retention measures could provide a key to mitigating drought stresses in future.
CDE also leads OPTAIN’s work package on measures and indicators, whose objectives are to: