The WISDOM project examined the contexts and relationships that shape how community-managed water suppliers deliver clean drinking water to rural parts of Ireland as well as implement source protection measures.
Focusing on 3 Group Water Scheme source water protection projects, the research demonstrates the extent and value of local expertise regarding the connections between local environmental change, national and EU policy, land use change, farming practice and economic pressures. This different form of expertise can work with established scientific methods to generate rigorous and critical insights into water-related issues.
The research also shows that source water protection is a complex and contentious area of water governance, as the protection of common goods can come into conflict with private interests relating to land use and farming. This creates a question around the equity of pursuing agricultural policies that might benefit a few but has detrimental environmental consequences that impact on the wider community.
The Water Forum’s Framework for Integrated Land and Landscape Management recommends stakeholder and community engagement to make sure that local expert knowledge contributes to the development and implementation of solutions for environmental outcomes (soil, air, water, biodiversity and climate) in catchments.