NRP 61: Practice workshop in Solothurn

Ninety representatives from the research community, the administration and private-sector businesses met at the practice workshop in Solothurn to discuss ways of implementing the findings of NRP 61.

After a look at what the future might hold, with scenarios for the climate, society and the economy, researchers and experts from the administration and private-sector businesses discussed recommendations and implementation tools generated by NRP 61 at 14 market stalls.

A "practice café" provided the setting for a discussion of the next steps towards implementation and a chance to identify gaps.

  • Insights: What's new for us?
  • Gaps: Where do we see the major challenges facing implementation? What else do we need? What questions still need to be answered?

The 90 participants identified the following issues as the biggest priorities:

  • Implementing integrated water management: organizational structure, clarification of roles, implementation
  • Improving the available data
  • How are things likely to develop after 2050?

In the final round the focus was on the following question: "The next step: What are we planning in our field?" The following steps were the top priorities for the 90 participants:

  • Adapt and optimize the organization and structure
  • Establish regional priorities and negotiation processes
  • Funding programmes and incentives
  • Share and communicate knowledge
  • Raise awareness and communicate
  • Pilot projects
  • Improve the available data
  • Optimize and deploy tools

Podium discussion of the question: How do we implement sustainable water management?

Stephan Müller, Head of the Water Division at FOEN, praised good examples from NRP 61 for their potential to bring about future solutions. He sees potential in collaboration not only within the water industry but also, and particularly, at the interfaces to other policy areas such as energy and agriculture. This is where new strategies need to be developed, at cantonal level too, though he favours a gentle approach comprising small steps. He argued that a water strategy would tie up too many of the resources that are currently in very short supply but he is of the opinion that the Water Agenda 21, which takes an integrative approach, deserves a closer look.

Christoph Böbner from the Lucerne Cantonal Agriculture and Forestry Office stated that water is a highly relevant issue for all policy areas, and that it is essential to adopt an approach that spans all sectors. There is a need here for the executive authorities to act, i.e. local councils, administrative offices and governments. The federal government should say how, the cantons should work out the details, and the municipalities should do the implementation. He highlighted the importance of communication and raising greater awareness. In his view, the videos and the exhibition are successful tools for transfering knowledge to a wider audience.

Rita Haudenschild, Local Councillor from Köniz, felt that there is a greater need for action and expressed a wish for more progressive directives from the federal government and the cantons – and also better collaboration. In her view, there are deficits in the way the cantons are going about implementation, and pressure on the environment is increasing. There are conflicts over protection and usage, she said. She cited the water strategy operated by the canton of Bern as a good example: the strategy creates legal certainty and it states clearly whether any stream or river in the Canton of Bern can be used. According to her, the federal government needs to mandate the cantons to take this type of planning in hand. She is pleased that a scientific basis has been created, and it reinforces her feeling of being on the right track. She would welcome the opportunity to work with researchers on a more regular basis.

Janet Hering, Director of Eawag, emphasized the importance of improving the available data. In her view, partnerships with the cantons and FOEN are important in simplifying access to data, and decision-making tools need to be improved if they are to be deployed in practice. She also highlighted the importance of teaching, practical courses and associations like the Swiss Water Association VSA and the Swiss Gas and Water Industry Association SVGW in implementing the findings of NRP 61. Eawag is not an ivory tower, she said; it needs partners in private-sector businesses, professional associations and at federal, cantonal and communal level. In addition, she drew attention to the importance of the doctoral students of NRP 61, who have acquired valuable experiences in collaborating with people in the field.

Luca Vetterli, a water protection expert at Pro Natura Schweiz, underlined the significance of negotiation processes. People need to talk about objectives because disagreements are resource-intensive, he argued. In his view, priority must be given to an integrative approach and more work needs to be done on the interfaces. They were unanimous that there is a need for more sustainability, he said, because the days of using water resources without restriction are over.


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