The sustainable management of water resources is one of the greatest global challenges, particularly in agriculture which consumes about 70% of the planet’s accessible fresh water. Concerns about depletion of water bodies and the necessity for water resource protection, has led to transnational and national resolutions such as the Water Framework Directive (WFD) [1]1 in Europe and the Water Code in Tunisia to ensure the sustainable use of water resources.

Economic activities and domestic uses require water in sufficient quantity and quality to meet the demand of competing sectors. In the EU, ~50% of the water resources do not meet WFD targets due to pollution from agriculture and industry and increasing demand on declining water resources. Agriculture accounts for 25-80% of total water use in the EU and North (N.) Africa and huge regional differences exist in the extent and gravity of water related challenges in agriculture. Problems of low and fluctuating water supply are most serious in South Europe and N. Africa where climate change is predicted to result in 30% reductions and increased uncertainty in rainfall by 2050. Overexploitation of ground water for irrigation has caused salinization leading to soil degradation and loss of fertility, particularly in N. Africa, while extreme rain events have resulted in severe erosion, landslides and flooding. Excessive and inappropriate timing of fertilizers and manure application in agriculture are causing considerable nutrient flows into the ground water or in the surrounding water bodies, thus affecting water quality.

The magnitude, diversity and complexity of water and soil issues calls for a coordinated and versatile strategy, as proposed by WaterFARMING, to retain the available water at source and optimize water and nutrient use across agricultural sectors and regions in Europe and N. Africa.