Our summers are increasingly characterised by long-lasting periods of drought. Extreme weather conditions will simply increase as a result of climate change and climate scenarios predict a decrease in the volume of rain up to 52% by 2100. This makes the water issue one of the biggest and most complex challenges we face in the future. Drought Experimental Gardens will seek possible solutions, specifically focusing on collaboration between businesses.

Not only our water system is under pressure. In combination with urbanisation and the growing demand for food and energy, the water issue has an impact on all kinds of social domains, in which farming is the first victim. In recent years, persistent periods of drought were acknowledged as a disaster for farming in all municipalities of the Flemish territory, but industrial companies also suffer from a water shortage. 

In the farming sector, as well as industry, efforts will have to be made to use water intelligently and sparingly. Buffering water could solve part of the problem, given the issue is often worse when little water is available. In addition purification and recycling is a logical and necessary measure. Collaboration between companies can offer many opportunities to intelligently buffer and use/reuse rainwater and water used for processing. A greater focus on water quality is important in this regard, given that it often decreases considerably during periods of drought. 

The challenge is to balance out supply and demand in the long term, taking into account the effects to be expected from climate change. With this in mind the Government of Flanders has allocated four million euro to the 'Drought Experimental Gardens' programme. The programme aims to support initiatives and investments that tackle drought and water scarcity, and focuses on companies that implement measures in a sustainable and cross-business manner. Cooperation partnerships comprising at least three companies were invited to submit an application for project subsidies to Flanders Environment Agency. In total, 25 business coalitions submitted a proposal, spread throughout Flanders. 

To keep the project on the right track and ensure qualitative projects, AWB focuses on two tasks. On the one hand, we provide structure and an overview of the submissions, and we bundle challenges into groups or families. As a result we identify project types that could inspire new initiators. On the other, we take a substantive look at the questions and knowledge arising from the initiatives themselves. This allows us to bundle and present the substantive input on overarching study days, during which a link is made with other projects related to the water issue. 

Thanks to a broad programme team responsible for assessing and supporting the submitted projects, feedback and information could be gathered from diverse corners. The programme team consisted of the Flanders Environment Agency (VMM), the Flemish Land Agency (VLM), Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship (VLAIO) and the Participatiemaatschappij Vlaanderen (PMV).

On 25 and 26 April 2019, the panel assessed the submitted projects. Ten projects were selected for the second, final round on 6 September 2019. We will announce the projects selected for implementation at the beginning of 2020. 

Type: Programme

Year: April 2019 - …

Initiators: Flanders Environment Agency (VMM) 

Partners: The Flemish Land Agency (VLM), Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship (VLAIO) and the Participatiemaatschappij Vlaanderen (PMV), Departement Omgeving (DOMG)