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Optimal strategies to retain and re-use water and nutrients in small agricultural catchments across different soil-climatic regions in Europe.

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Project period
EU Horizon 2020
External webpages
Research section
Water and society
Contact person
Ingrid Nesheim

About the project

OPTAIN aims to increase the knowledge and understanding of multiple benefits that spatially targeted combinations of natural/small water retention measures (NSWRM) have on the management of small agriculture catchments in Europe, and on the conditions under which they perform most effectively.

The project has 22 partners, including NIVA from 15 different countries that work to engage stakeholders and identify optimal combinations and placement of NSWRMs under different regional and climatic conditions. 

Project background

Natural/small water retention measures (NSWRMs) can help to mitigate the conflicts between agricultural water uses, such as for plant production and animals, and other human and environmental demands for water, including drinking water or maintaining environmental flow.

This is crucial, since these conflicts will be probably exacerbated by an increasing number of extreme events such as droughts and heavy rainfall. A more careful management of head watersheds will significantly contribute to a more resilient agriculture and society.

Despite a comprehensive set of techniques available to increase water retention on both catchment and farm levels, knowledge is still lacking on the conditions under which NSWRM perform best and how they are best combined with other measures.

The OPTAIN approach will increase the acceptance and implementation of NSWRMs for an improved water and nutrient management, and a resilient agricultural production.


The general objectives of OPTAIN are to:

  • Identify efficient techniques for the retention and reuse of water and nutrients in small agricultural catchments across Continental, Pannonian, and Boreal biogeographical regions of Europe in close cooperation with local actors
  • Select NSWRMs at farm and catchment level and optimize their spatial allocation and combination, based on environmental and economic sustainability indicators.

Read more about the work plan here.

Find out more

The OPTAIN project started in September 2020 and will last for five years. There are 14 case studies in Germany, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Italy, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Norway, Slovenia, Belgium, Poland and Sweden.

Learn more about the different case studies here.

For more information and news from the project, visit the OPTAIN website or follow OPTAIN on Facebook.

figure showing core elements of the project
The figure shows core elements of the OPTAIN project.