WATERAGRI develops traditional drainage and irrigation solutions and re-introduce nature-based solutions such as integrated constructed wetlands, bio-inspired drainage systems and sustainable flood retention basins in the agricultural landscape, leading to better retention of both water and nutrients.


Fields of Tyrnävä case study site
Fields near Tyrnävä

Project information

Project duration


Funded by

Horizon 2020 - Research & Innovation Action (RIA)

Funding amount

7 200 000 EUR

Project coordinator

Other university or unit

Contact information

Project leader

Contact person

Other persons

Project description

WATERAGRI is a H2020 research & innovation project that aims to re-introduce and enhance solutions for water retention and nutrient recycling in order to enable agricultural production that can sustain growing populations and cope with present and envisioned climate change challenges. As such, the project strives to generate a deeper, more detailed and integrated understanding of the hydrological processes and interactions shaping water resources in Europe. To achieve these ambitious objectives, WATERAGRI will further develop traditional drainage and irrigation solutions and re-introduce nature-based solutions such as constructed wetlands and bio-inspired drainage systems in the agricultural landscape, which leads to better retention of both water and nutrients. Also, WATERAGRI plans to evaluate specific water and nutrient retention needs with the farming community, develop a set of affordable and easy-to-implement technologies, test them at the field level and deploy a sound business framework for their uptake at the farm and agricultural catchment level.

Project actions

WATERAGRI Pilots – Boreal Zone – Finland I

Tyrnävä – Finland

This Finnish case study will lead to the improvement of water regulation for potato farming and comprises the development of automatic drainage. Drainage water regulation for farming on mineral soils in the municipality of Tyrnävä, Northern Ostrobothnia will be enhanced. The potato growth and water retention to limit irrigation and leaching of nutrients will be optimized. The WATERAGRI system will detect flow in the drainpipes to predict drain blockages and drain cleaning intervals.

WATERAGRI solutions applied at the case study location:

  • Remote sensing pipeline and water are sent to VTT for membrane studies.
  • The software HydroGeoSphere is tested and applied (Integrated physically-based terrestrial system)
  • OULU is testing with models irrigation scheduling and automatically controlled drainage modeling
  • The integration of the model and real-time sensor data is undertaken using the data assimilation system for boreal conditions such as in Tyrnävä.

Partners involved: Leader: OULU, Participant: UNINE, FZJ, VTT, and OULU

WATERAGRI Pilots – Boreal Zone – Finland II

The site is used for grass production and located in the municipality of Ruukki, Northern Ostrobothnia. The expected impact will be on water regulation to limit subsidence, nutrient leaching, acidity leaching (acid sulfate soils), and greenhouse gas emissions from organic soils, which are common in the boreal region.

WATERAGRI solutions applied at the case study location:

  • Controlled drainage used to test its’ impacts on crops, hydrology, water quality, and greenhouse gas emissions from shallow peatland use in grass cultivation.
  • Physical modelling using the DRAINMOD 6.0 open-access software.
  • Tracers and bio-based nutrient-collecting membranes

Partners involved: Leader: OULU, Participant: BOKU, VTT, and OULU

Project trainings

Regional meeting for WATERAGRI workshop #3

Country: Finland
Host organization: University of Oulu
Day, time, and place (‘online’ for videoconference): 26.1.2022
Reporting person with email address (can be the case study site owner): Björn Klöve bjorn.klove@oulu.fi
Number of invited persons 17
Number of actual participants 15

Time Topic/Session Moderator/Speaker
12:00-12:10 Welcome Klöve
12:10-12:30 Presentation of participants and their experience on the topic Klöve
12:30-13:15 presentation on research projects on controlled drainage and soil moisture management (3 sites Tyrnävä, Ruukki, Sievi) Klöve, Liimatainen, Sikkilä
13:30-14:30 Simulation system combining models and measurements Klöve (translated), Hoiffman (web solution and discussion)

During the workshop different stakeholders like farmers, advisory services, and companies providing soil moisture and water management systems for agriculture participated. The basic information about the case study site, ongoing activities on the field and proposed WATERAGRI solutions were presented. Also, presentation of translated version of forecast system proposed by FZJ was also presented and feedback were collected from different stakeholders as follows:

  • Although the irrigation is provided only to some valuable crops it is becoming more important due to recent droughts and more uncertain future conditions.
  • Farmers need systems for measuring intra-block moisture proofing.
  • The simulation systems could be useful for large farms. Soil composition and water management need to be taken into account (water balance should be at field (or plot) scale)
  • Development of improved drainage and irrigation management is of great interest for local farmers. The results of the project should be shared with local farmers.

PhD course on Agricultural water and nutrient management: novel approaches on water retention and nutrient recycling

Webinar 11-13 October 2021, University of Oulu
Contact person: Dr. Syed Mustafa, UOULU (syed.mustafa@oulu.fi)
Responsible person for the course: Prof. Björn Klöve, UOULU/NIBIO
Platform: Zoom
Credits: 5 ECTS (Certificate of participation give to all participants, credits for those who finish the assignments)

Assessment: research (PhD plan) presentations + learning diary for each day (some calculus and return exercises can be provided separately)

Course description: The course aims to provide the state of the art of agricultural water management with examples from recent research projects with focus on methods related to water retention and nutrient management including novel aspects of numerical modelling. It is suited for PhD candidates from agronomy, engineering and science, especially students in hydrology, water and environmental engineering.

Return tasks for PhD candidates (for credits 5 ECTS):
o Learning diary on theory lectures and lessons learnt, 2-3 pages
o Research (PhD plan) presentations
o Review on international journal articles provided as reading materials (1 page)

Day 1 (11 October): Introduction to on-going research projects and ways to create impact

• 9-12 Lectures (50 min each: 40-45 min lecture + discussion 5-10 min)
o Prof. Dr. Björn Klöve, UOULU: Opening words on research challenges
o Prof. Dr. Philippe Quevauviller, EC/VUB: “How can science help EU to achieve water and agricultural policy goals – An example of cross-disciplines and multi-actors interfacing approach”
o Dr. Mona Arnold, VTT: Impact of research projects to society
o Dr. Vladimir Mrkajic, INOSENS: “Communication of scientific information to a wider audience”
o Discussion
Break for lunch 12-13
• 13-16 Research (PhD plan) presentations/M.Sc. research on various topics and cases (max 5-7 slides for 5 min + discussion 3-5 min)

Day 2 (12 October): Data, observations and ICT systems

• 9-12 Lectures (50 min each: 40-45 min lecture + discussion 5-10 min)
o Prof. Dr. Harrie-Jan Hendricks-Franssen, FZJ: “Overview of data sources used in hydrology (soil moisture, remote sensing etc).
o Dr. Eline Vanuytrecht, VITO/KU Leuven: “water productivity modelling”
o Dr Diego Guidotti, AGRICOLUS: “Decision Support Systems for water management”
o Discussion
Break for lunch 12-13
• 13-16 Remote sensing and IoT solutions in agricultural water management
o Dr. Mariette Vreugdenhil, TU-WIEN: “Remote sensing of soil moisture and vegetation dynamics”
o Prof. Dr. Alexandra Gemitzi, DU-Thrace: “Remote sensing of evapotranspiration with Google Earth Engine applications”
o Dr. Haidi Abdullah, VULTUS: Commercializing RS products for agriculture
o Discussion

Day 3 (13 October): Advanced modelling and stakeholders’ involvement

• 9-11 Lectures (50 min each: 40-45 min lecture + discussion)
o Prof. Dr. Harrie-Jan Hendricks-Franssen, FZJ: “Introduction to data assimilation”.
o Prof. Dr. Philip Brunner, UNINE: “Fully integrated models: what can they do?”
o Discussion
• 11-12.30 Lectures (Discussion after a short lecture)
o Dr. Syed Mustafa, UOULU: How do we ensure that hydro(geo)logical models serve the society better?
o Dr. rer. nat. Tamara Avellán, UOULU: Engaging with stakeholders: inter- and trans disciplinarity
o Discussion
Break for lunch 12.30-13.30
• 13.30-16 Research (PhD plan) presentations/M.Sc. research on various topics and cases (max 5-7 slides for 5 min + discussion 3-5 min)
• 16.00-16.30 Summary and closing remarks

Project results

The project activities will include 10 well-developed case studies with focus on specific biogeographical regions of Europe: Boreal Zone (Finland), Continental Zone (Sweden, France, Germany, Poland, Switzerland, Austria, Italy) and Pannonian Zone (Hungary). Here, the economically sustainable WATERAGRI technologies will be tested and deployed for different land use/crop types – from grass production and pasture to organic and conventional (fruit) farming. The test field sizes will vary from 1ha up to 1000 ha.

WATERAGRI will bring a decision-support framework for the farming community and a set of individual water retention and nutrient recovery solutions.

WATERAGRI decision-support framework includes 6 models that allows different functionalities such as data assimilation, optimisation of irrigation scheduling and fertilisation, water-vapour sorption, zoning landscape matrix, etc. In addition, to facilitate decision-making in an actual situation the framework will be supplemented by Serious gaming component that will enable simulation and quantification of the impact of a farmer’s decision on technical, economic and environmental aspects of the analysed problem.

Innovative and sustainable WATERAGRI Water Retention solutions will bring 8 technologies to European farmers, including farm-constructed wetlands, remote sensing pipeline, irrigation and agrometeorological monitoring, biochar for water retention, etc.

WATERAGRI Nutrient recovery solutions will also offer a set of 5 advanced and nature-based technologies including farm-constructed wetlands for nutrient recovery, drainage systems, bio-based membranes, biochar adsorbents and microfluidics.

Current publications from the project:

Scientific papers (published)

  1. Mustafa, S. M. T., Ghag, K., Panchanathan, A., Dahal, B., Ahrari, A., Liedes, T., Marttila, H., Avellán, T., Oussalah, M., Klöve, B., & Haghighi, A. T. (2022). Smart drainage management to limit summer drought damage in Nordic agriculture under the circular economy concept. Hydrological Processes, e14560. DOI: 10.22541/au.164743416.62268619/v1

Articles in International scientific conferences

  1. Mustafa, S. M. T., Autio, A., Haghighi, A. T., Marttila, H., Avellán, T., Schilling, O. S., Brunner, P., Scholz, M., & Klöve, B. (2022). Integrated hydrological modelling for decision support to improve field and catchment scale water management in agriculture. EGU22-11823, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria.
  2. Ghag, K., Ahrari, A., Mustafa, S. M. T., Panchanathan, A., Liedes, T., Klöve, B., & Haghighi, A. T. (2022). Integrated irrigation and drainage approach to overcome summer droughts in Nordic conditions. EGU22-12413, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria.
  3. Mustafa, S. M. T., Marttila, H., Haghighi, A. T., Ghysels, G., Peeters, L., ..... Ferre, T. P. A., Brunner, P., Hendricks-Franssen, H., Huysmans, M., Comte, J.C., & Klöve, B. (2021). How do we ensure that hydro(geo)logical models serve the society better? 6 - 10 September 2021, 48th IAH Congress - Brussels, Belgium.