Salinization and agriculture in the Netherlands: benchmarking stakeholder perspectives
The salinization of freshwater resources poses significant problems to agriculture, industry, and drinking water provision in coastal areas all around the world. Climatic and anthropogenic stresses create additional pressures on freshwater resources in these areas, thereby increasing competition between the different uses. In the low-lying, coastal regions of the Netherlands, the threat of salinization is already widespread due to historically saline groundwater reservoirs and being largely positioned below sea-level. Agriculture in these areas is particularly vulnerable to the threat of salinization, being exposed to brackish seepage, volatile weather conditions, and by being one of the last activities to receive fresh water in times of scarcity. To research how the agricultural sector can be made more salinization-resilient, semi-structured interviews with experts and stakeholders were conducted to identify what is currently locking-in unsustainable land- and water management practices and what could potentially support a transition to more salinization-resilience. The findings show that a lacking sense of urgency, uncertainty about the threat of salinization, uncertainty about the effectiveness, efficiency, and feasibility of different mitigative and adaptive measures, and diffuse burdens and responsibilities are locking-in the status quo. These lock-ins can be overcome by embedding the issue in existing programmes, increasing communication and collaboration between the different stakeholders, formulating long-term strategies, and increasing awareness through pilots. Furthermore, research into different measures and a societal cost-benefit analysis can elucidate possible pathways to salinization-resilience.
Keywords: salinization, climate change, salt-tolerance, mitigation, adaptation, resilience, fresh water
Isa Camara Beauchampet
MSc Environment and Resource Management
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam