The socio-economic work has involved collating large amounts of material from disparate sources in selecting sub-catchments. Significant networks have been built with local stakeholders and national experts and it is clear that there is strong interest in the thematic challenges that WP6 in particular and REFRESH in general, set out to address. More important, the intensive consultation of stakeholders promotes an important aim of the project, namely to co-construct water management solutions which are not only effective (in terms of compliance and costs), but are also feasible both economically and socially, and thus have a strong chance to be actually adopted in the demonstration catchments. This particular analysis of WP6 is expected to promote a new approach on the selection of mitigation and adaptation interventions at local scale across Europe.
Furthermore, the policy implications of WP6 findings are considered important for agricultural policy and especially for Pillar 2 agri-environmental measures, which represent a very significant proportion of EAFRD funds dedicated to rural development. WP6 findings point out to four important policy rules, which if applied, are expected to enhance policy efficacy.
The first policy rule is to “express policy targets in the units used by the targeted environmental standard”. This will force policy makers to an ex-ante assessment of their proposed policy with science based nutrient transport models.
The second policy rule is to “climate change proof” the policy. Policy designers should ensure that, due to the long term commitments of agri-environment programmes, the proposed measures will continue to achieve compliance under expected changes such as climate and land use changes, and will continue to be cost effective, i.e., they will continue to achieve compliance with the lowest possible cost. This will force policy designers to proposed mitigation measures that are “climate change proofed”, i.e., will achieve cost efficient compliance under changing future conditions. Thus, measures would be designed in a way to allow transition to a stricter abatement level if changes are unfavourable or to looser abatement if changes are favourable with the lowest cost. This can be achieved by using science based nutrient transport models that simulate nutrient concentrations under changed environmental conditions. Thus, farmers would be a priori informed that, if conditions change, they will have to adopt transitional measures.
The third policy rule is to “unravel and flag all wider and associated benefits”. If a proper benefit assessment is carried out, especially for WFD related agri-environment programmes, the habitats and biodiversity non-use values should be measured and the target population should be expanded outside the limits of the local population and the benefits due to use values.
The fourth policy rule is to “take account of disproportionality and affordability effects” and establish firm grounds for possible departures from the Polluter-Pays-Principle.
The main socio-economic and wider societal impacts of work done under WP7 to date is that stemming from the dissemination of Project results to the stakeholders concerned with management of freshwaters. In the final year of the project a major effort was undertaken to ensure that the research output reached target stakeholders in an accessible way (during stakeholder meetings, science-policy interface events, through policy briefs, newsletters and summary leaflets) to maximise potential uptake and therefore impact. With the key messages for management and policy delivered directly to those responsible for making and implementing policy we believe we the work done in REFRESH has the potential to provide managers with ways to improve implementation of the Water Framework Directive and policy makers with suggestions as to how the design of the Directive might be improved during the next stage of its revision. More detailed dissemination are described below.