Task force Agricultural Water Management

What is the Task force Agricultural Water Management (Deltaplan Agrarisch Waterbeheer – DAW)?

In the Netherlands agricultural entrepreneurs, public bodies and water managers work closely together in the Task force Agricultural Water Management (Deltaplan Agrarisch Waterbeheer – DAW). But what precisely is the DAW? In 2013 the Dutch agricultural and horticultural organisation (LTO Nederland) and the Union of Water Boards (Dutch regional water authorities) decided to join forces in the reduction of emissions from farms to water. At the initiative of LTO Nederland the agricultural sector has taken its responsibility by contributing to the challenges in the field of water quality and quantity (the water challenges). In addition to the water boards, the provinces (Dutch regional public bodies) and drinking water companies have joined this initiative over the years, as well as the Ministries of Infrastructure & Water Management and Agriculture, Nature & Food Quality.

What does the DAW focus on?

The DAW targets the water challenges of farmers. Weather patterns are becoming more extreme, periods of flooding and prolonged drought will happen more often, which will influence agricultural management. In addition, leaching and run-off of manure (nutrients) and plant protection products (PPPs) to groundwater and surface water occur at agricultural holdings. According to the EU Water Framework Directive and EU Nitrates Directive the agricultural sector is also obliged to implement measures for water quality.
Besides promoting the water quality, the DAW also focuses on the improvement of soil quality and the reduction of desiccation, flooding / waterlogging and soil subsidence. The DAW mainly operates through area planning processes and transfer of knowledge, (in this way) reaching many farmers and gardeners.

15.000 participating farmers in more than 500 projects

The DAW wants to support agricultural entrepreneurs, and to promote the participation with water boards, drinking water companies and other stakeholders. For example by sharing knowledge and practical experience of other farmers, by encouraging and facilitating initiatives, and by setting up area-based processes. All farmers are considered our target group. Since 2014, when starting with 3 pilots, the number of participating farmers has increased to more than 15.000 on a total of 53.233 farms in the Netherlands (2019). Currently there are more than 500 projects, scattered throughout the country and covering all important sectors.

To inspire participation, linking awareness-raising to customized guidance

Strengthening and enhancing the participation of farmers is an important condition for the DAW to be more effective. This is also reflected in the research carried out on behalf of the national government: the National Analysis of Water Quality. According to this analysis, it appears that the DAW might ensure a significant improvement of the water quality, if farmers’ participation increases further. To achieve this farmers need to be actively approached and assisted. Likewise, it is important to have sufficient financial means in order to allow the participation of all interested farmers. By approaching farmers actively through awareness-raising projects, participation might be further extended. It appears that financial limitations are, in practice, the main barriers for the participation of farmers. For this reason the DAW is actively involved in the amendment of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), with the aim of facilitating the funding or implementation of projects.

Projects that link awareness in a comprehensive way to supervision, business-oriented monitoring, feedback and funding opportunities seem the most effective. Also, for the upcoming programming period (2021-2027), it is the intention of the DAW to continue the cooperation between the agricultural sector and water managers, and to inspire more and more agricultural entrepreneurs in taking DAW-measures, with which both business operations and the soil and water systems will be improved.

Clean and sufficient water supply are of crucial importance to farming. Climate change emphasizes the importance of this issue. Water, both in the waterways and in the soil, has to be of good quality for crops and farm animals. Farmers themselves have an influence on this. With the right approach the biodiversity and ecology in and around their own farm will be improved as well. This is closely connected to soil quality.

Voluntary measures

The national government might use voluntary and mandatory measures for the reduction of emissions. Compulsory measures (such as additional measures to reduce the emissions of PPPs to surface water) have proved to be effective in achieving the objectives, provided that compliance is sufficient. The disadvantage of these provisions is that they provoke resentment in the agricultural sector which already is dealing with an abundance of regulatory requirements and legal provisions. The DAW is based on the philosophy ‘take voluntarily measures’. The advantage of voluntary measures being that participating farmers are motivated to actually undertaking steps. Another benefit is that farmers are able to show their workmanship in this way. Due to its voluntary nature, the DAW fits the perspective of an enterprising society, in which intrinsic motivation is an important driving force.

Practical examples

A few projects of the Task force Agricultural Water Management are presented.

‘Improved soil and water quality and reduced nitrate leaching with BodemUp’

Projects in groundwater protection areas are focused on reducing nitrate leaching by working towards a healthy soil. BodemUp (‘SoilUp’) is a successful project in which more than 500 farmers are taught by means of workshops and so-called ‘kitchen table’ discussions to improved use of nutrients. This contributes to a healthy, fertile soil with less leaching, but also to an improved operating efficiency for the farmer.

‘Less emissions to surface water due to Clean Farmyard, Clean Water’

In order to preserve drinking water, for now and in the future, it is important for farmers and gardeners to reduce their farmyard emissions. Still too many plant protection products currently leach from the farmyard towards the surface water. By means of the DAW we support agricultural entrepreneurs in the reduction of emissions. This is accomplished, among other things, through awareness-raising by letting farmers themselves measure the emissions in the ditch. We provide practical measures and make subsidy available for taking appropriate action. This will result in a demonstrably improved surface water quality.

‘Better understanding of the cycle at own farm with Vruchtbare Kringloop (Fertile/nutrient Cycle)’

At the farm everything is connected: crop adaptations influence the roughage, emissions and manure. In the project Vruchtbare Kringloop dairy farmers gain an insight into the (nutrient) cycle of their own company via the management tool KringloopWijzer (‘CycleRoadmap’).

In study groups participants learn from each other’s numbers and receive practical tips for effective action, such as using a green manure crop (after corn), implementing partitioned fertilisation (smart farming, precision agriculture) and feeding less protein. This contributes to a healthy business and soil.

‘More attention for measures in the field of desiccation’

Due to the dry summers of 2018, 2019 and 2020, farmers and gardeners are increasingly interested in measures relating to desiccation. These actions to improve the water retention capacity of the soil or to exploit freshwater in a more efficient way, often require a substantial investment by agricultural entrepreneurs. The DAW provides funding through various projects to support farmers. It means they can place weirs, deploy drip irrigation, construct a controlled drainage system, etc.
Verdroging en vernatting.

More information and contact

As all other information on the website of the DAW is in the Dutch language, we can imagine you might want further clarification (if applying Google Translate on the page is insufficient). For example about topics that are specifically intended for farmers. That is possible. Please send an email to Then we will contact you.