Workshop proceedings on collaborative scoping of solutions, Thames Catchment, UK

Abstract: Workshop proceedings on collaborative scoping of solutions, Thames Catchment, UK

Task 6.3 of the REFRESH Project is concerned with scoping possible measures to improve water quality through collaboration with local stakeholders. This task is being undertaken at six case study catchments located in Scotland, England, Finland, Norway, the Czech Republic and Greece. Deliverable D6.18 represents the outcome of the collaborative scoping of solutions in the Thame sub-catchment of the river Thames, in Oxfordshire, England. A workshop was held on 20th April 2012 in Whitchurch, Oxfordshire, to explore the views of local stakeholders on measures to improve water quality problems for compliance with the Water Framework and Habitats Directives, both now and under projected climate change. The workshop was designed and implemented following the Participatory Assessment of Adaptation Strategies protocol agreed in WP6, and built on the stakeholder engagement experience in WP1. A total of 13 people participated in the workshop. The stakeholders included farmers and representatives from Thames Water Company, the Environment Agency and Natural England.
The objectives of the workshop were addressed through three key discussions, concerning:

  1. water quality problems in the sub-catchment and the sources of these pressures,
  2. measures to alleviate these problems and perceptions on their cost and effectiveness, and
  3. climate change and its effect on water quality and adaptation measures. Discussions were facilitated in both a plenary and break-out group format.

The workshop was successful in gathering local views regarding the above-mentioned three issues. The measures generally perceived to be most cost effective in this area were decreased use of pesticides and crop rotation, flexibility and empowerment for farmers, regional regulation instead of national and awareness raising for land managers and farmers. The role of regulation, and its knock-on impact in generating water quality problems, was perceived as an important problem. Regarding climate change, despite the uncertainty regarding the details of how climate may change, participants were able to provide insightful and well-argued expectations about the local effects of climate change on water quality and mitigation measures, including effects on agriculture (e.g. decreased profits in dairy farming, the need for adaptation and new skills to face new conditions), ecology and habitats (negative, such as invasive species, and positive in the creation of new habitats) and human and animal health. Exacerbation of flooding was also signalled as highly problematic issue. Climate change impacts were also discussed in the context of growing population, increasing urbanization, and ever increasing demands on land, conflicting with rising food demand.
These stakeholder perspectives will feed into further WP6 cost-effectiveness analysis modelling work and guide the selection of adaptation measures to be modelled in WP5. Lessons learnt will guide the project’s general stakeholder and collaborative learning process in WP7. A specificity of the Thame workshop is that, although there is a history of water quality monitoring in the area, stakeholder engagement has a relatively recent focus. Stakeholders have responded very positively to the REFRESH format of open discussion between different agencies and interest in and commitment to further workshops was shown. REFRESH may therefore also have contributed to the development of increased stakeholder communication in the sub-catchment.

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