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Co-learning within an EU project

In order to build up scenario’s necessary for new groundwater policy and management, the New Water Culture Foundation (FNCA, Fundación Nueva Cultura del Agua) in Spain will oversee the compiling and selecting of effective measures. UPWATER is a new way of asking questions and finding solutions, according to FNCA director Julia Martinez-Fernández.

“UPWATER is going to teach us a lot of things that we are currently unaware of,” says Julia Martinez-Fernández, a doctor in biology and the general director of FNCA. Martinez-Fernández will assist all partners in establishing close relationships with all relevant stakeholders from the three countries that are involved in the case studies of UPWATER Apart from gaining knowledge, UPWATER will also give them an understanding of the challenges and limitations of improving water management at the European level, and how to overcome them.

The role of the FNCA is that of a connector, assisting the research partners within the European project in engaging with end-users in the water management process, such as municipalities and water treatment facilities. Also, the FNCA will contribute to asses different measures and policy scenarios to prevent and mitigate groundwater pollution using a multi-criteria perspective and using a participatory framework. This will lead to new insights, according to Martinez-Fernández.

It is the interdisciplinary approach of the European project is setting UPWATER apart from a lot of research projects on similar subjects like UPWATER is focusing on. ‘All kinds of European projects have focused on similar topics, but the FNCA and other UPWATER partners will be better connected, bringing new ways to solve old questions.’

Stakeholder workshops

Along with the Future City Foundation, Martinez-Fernández will coordinate the different tasks of engagement with stakeholders. The next step is to carry out participatory workshops with different project partners and stakeholders. These will take place near the sites of the case studies, which are located in Denmark, Germany and Spain. Martinez-Fernández is convinced that the workshops will be essential to archieve the aims of the project.

‘In each of the three case studies, there is a real commitment to develop better measures for end-users. All of us want to succeed in mitigating and also preventing ground water from getting polluted’, the general director says. To achieve this goal, the partners will not only need to work on short-term solutions. ‘I think we should not only come up with concrete measures, we also need to develop a new way of thinking about our ground water.’


To ensure the project reflects the day-to-day reality, the UPWATER project members will engage with relevant entities and stakeholders that deal with water policies, it’s management and planning. Inside and outside of their own network. FNCA, for example, has a large member network that consists of economists, ecologists, sociologists, legal experts and geologists, whom all could benefit from keeping an eye on UPWATER. They will be updated on the progress of the project through their colleagues and all UPWATER channels.

Martinez-Fernández also mentions the relation between the project partners and NGO’s and citizen networks. Data and insights generated within the project could enable these parties to participate in the problem solving. Which will be of help to provide the lessons that society needs to know. As Martinez-Fernández says: ‘If we are successful to educate and train as many involved institutions and people inside and outside of the project, giving them usable tools but also a new mindset on water management, then I will be happy.’

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