Water Indicators show impact of water management and climate change on agriculture and nature

Practical and climate-robust tools for policy support

With the Nature Water Indicator and the Agriculture Water Indicator one can obtain more detail and user-friendly predictions about the impact of climate change and water management measures on nature and agriculture. KWR is contributing to this big project which is being led by STOWA. Recently developed knowledge is incorporated into these instruments, which will eventually be available to everyone as downloadable tools.

Bundled knowledge

The Water Indicator Day is being held today in Amersfoort, where it will be shown how the Agriculture Water Indicator and the Nature Water Indicator can provide a climate-robust assessment of the effect of water management on agricultural crop yields and vegetation development in nature. These tools incorporate all the relevant knowledge developed over the past few years by various research organisations. The Dutch Foundation for Applied Water Research (STOWA), the knowledge centre for regional water managers in the Netherlands, is the driving force behind this large, multi-year collaboration on the Water Indicators. STOWA has brought together all the necessary parties: from waterboards and the national government, to organisations active in agriculture and nature, and knowledge institutes like the Wageningen Environmental Research (WEnR) and KWR.

General public

Flip Witte of KWR is heading the development of the Nature Water Indicator and Ruud Bartholomeus, also of KWR, has worked on the Agriculture Water Indicator. The models and concepts for both Water Indicators are at a very stage advanced, according to Bartholomeus: ‘A lot of the process knowledge about climate-robust relations between groundwater, soil moisture and vegetation which we have developed over the past few years will now, via the Water Indicators, become available as practical tools for the general public. Over the upcoming six months, we want to make the models even more user-friendly, so that in the end we’ll have a tool that everyone can download and apply.’

Currently Witte and Bartholomeus are already using the Water Indicators to investigate the effects of climate change or water management measures on nature and agriculture. What happens, for example, if one digs a side channel in an area, or how can one, on the basis of the weather forecasts, actively and daily influence the moisture availability in agriculture land parcels? Compared with the older models that calculate drought damage and wet damage, for example, the Water Indicators provide more detailed information, which moreover incorporates the effects of climate change. Bartholomeus: ‘With the Water Indicators you can not only see the long-term averages, but also zoom in on exceptional years and look at the dynamics and variations within a particular period. The Water Indicators also use input that dovetails with the typical working methods in agriculture and nature.’ Witte and Bartholomeus are both contributing to the morning programme of the Water Indicator Day, when the science behind the content of the Water Indicators will be in the limelight. The afternoon programme will focus on the application of and the initial user-experiences with the two Water Indicators and on their further development.

The Agriculture Water Indicator helps forecast the impact of water management and climate change on agriculture.


Presentation by Ruud Bartholomeus.