The Morsa cooperative work started in 1999 on an initiative from the four municipalities in the Vansjø water catchment, Våler, Moss, Rygge og Råde. In addition these municipalities managed to also include the four up-stream municipalities, regional authorities and the farmers unions in the two counties Østfold and Akershus for a joint effort for lake Vansjø which was in a poor condition.
Helga Gunnarsdottir ( coordinator of management for the River Basin Organization Morsa) and Karen Refsgaard (senior researcher at the Norwegian Agricultural Economics Research Institute)
3.1.1, 3.1.2,3.1.3, 3.1.4,CS1, CS1.1,CS1.2, CS1.3, Region Europe, EU2, EU4
The Morsa cooperative work started in 1999 on an initiative from the four municipalities in the Vansjø water catchment, Våler, Moss, Rygge og Råde. In addition these municipalities managed to also include the four up-stream municipalities, regional authorities and the farmers unions in the two counties Østfold and Akershus for a joint effort for lake Vansjø which was in a poor condition. Vansjø is a unique recreational area and in addition drinking water reservoir for 60.000 people in the region of Moss as well as a reserve drinking water reservoir for the towns Sarpsborg and Fredrikstad.
Morsa was the first type of cooperation in the river building on consensus and a common knowledge-based structure for decisions across sectors and across municipality and county borders. Through establishment of mutual respect and trust, common goals and understanding of the importance of a good water environment, municipalities, regional authorities and not least farmers and other inhabitants have carried out extensive measures. Instead of blaming each other across municipalities and sectors everybody has taken responsibility.
There has been carried out measures within sewage treatment and agriculture for about Euro 65 million since 1999. Most of these costs have been covered by the inhabitants as fees and investments, as well as transfers through the agricultural subsidies and voluntary inputs by farmers. Small amounts of public subsidies at state level did initiate excessive and in the beginning not very popular means – so the 8 mayors being frontier breakers and fighting for this need great respect. Thanks to the work with different measures and specific environmental contracts in parts of the watershed within the most polluted part of the lake, the water quality in Vansjø is improving and children can again swim in the lake.
Since there was a mismatch between the hydrological and administrative borders and a policy gap it was important to bring together “all” authorities in the water catchment and the most important stakeholders. The organization was also important to overcome the information gap and to highlight the capacity and the funding gap
ToolbarThe Morsa catchment, 690 km2, is located in the South-East of Norway between the Oslofjord and river Glomma dominated by agriculture and forest. It includes 8 municipalities, 2 counties and 40,000 inhabitants. The catchment is covered by marine sediments, has several lakes and a hydrology characterized by peak runoff events during autumn and winter periods.
The Morsa River has in the past had a lack of a central management structure for the river basin. Responsibility for water quality used to be distributed on several government sectors, and responsibilities were often at the local authority level with more focus on local agendas than the river basin as a whole. The Vansjø-plan was adopted in 1997 by the local authorities. They demanded to cooperate with the 4 up-stream local authorities and and a Pre-Morsa organizing committee was established. In 1999, the Morsa Project started as a cooperation initiative between the local counties, regional authorities and stakeholder interests. The main objective was to improve the water quality of the catchment. Following the implementation of the WFD, the Morsa Project was re-organized into a River Basin District Organization in 2007, under the Glomma River Basin Authority.
In the implementation phase the municipalities with the mayors and local staff working within the sectors affecting the watercourse acted strategically in the implementation phase. Also the farmers organizations were active as the local farmers were one of the main source of non-point pollution.
Morsa was the first type of cooperation in the river building on consensus and a common knowledge-based structure for decisions across sectors and across municipality and county borders. Through establishment of mutual respect and trust, common goals and understanding of the importance of a good water environment have municipalities, regional authorities and not least farmers and other inhabitants carried out extensive measures. Instead of blaming each other across municipalities and sectors everybody have taken responsibility.
• Management based on knowledge => public understanding and consensus
• Objective and neutral analysis: Carried out by Environmental institutes 2001. On Status, objectives, measures and costs
• Plans for better water quality in every municipality 2002
• Environmental program against non-point pollution the agriculture 2002
• Action plan for Morsa – adopted by local authorities in 2003
The water quality problems linked to lake Vansjø have been a major concern for decades. Reports have highlighted the pollution problems including possible measures for mitigation. Despite awareness no substantial progress appeared. In contrary, potentially harmful algal blooms occurred at increased frequency during the past decade. This together with an urgent need to bring the management process linked to the lake and surrounding areas into a more active track, led to establishment of the Morsa River Basin Organization (Morsa) in 1999.
Due to mismatch between hydrological, administrative borders and policy gap authorities and stakeholders were brought together in Morsa. Morsa consists of a board of mayors and county representatives with responsibility to direct and monitor progress of work and provide political support. Further of main task forces: the waste/wastewater treatment, agriculture/forestry and water resources with roles to identify and implement actions and measures. Finally of a coordinator with responsibility to facilitate communication between end-users and stakeholders, and the different bodies within the organization (see figure).
- Improved water quality for citizens (bading, boating, fishing etc.), for drinking water use
- Improved governance and management around water management reducing conflicts
- Some dispute around reduced possibilities for farmers for food production
- => And therefore also reduced food security
- => But also improved agronomic conditions and reduced risk for impacts of floodingToolbar
- An overall awareness among population in general – industries and authorities of a more sustainable approach to water management.
During Morsas 12 years, excessive mitigation actions have been implemented. Registration of 2300 households in rural areas showed that most of the wastewater treatment plants were insufficient. A program of upgrading was proposed and is now almost completed resulting in a reduction of 1.8 t of P to the lakes for a cost of NOK 400 mill. Earmarked grants from the Norwegian State Housing Bank have been important incitements.
Cereal production constitutes 90% of agricultural land. Most agricultural measures aim to reduce P losses by reducing soil erosion, suspended matter and use of P-fertilizer. Measures include conservation tillage on 80% of the fields, 220 km grassed waterways and buffer strips and 70 ponds and wetland. Implementation through information campaigns and public economic support. The last years monitoring of chemical and biological parameters has been carried out showing several signs of better water quality in rivers and lakes and swimming has again become safe.
Implementors of the EU WFD locally and regionally, but also nationally and cross-country may have interest in this solution. It tells how important the institutional and organizational framework is to secure robust, legitimate and acceptable solutions in the long run.
The experiences to transfer from Morsa are:
- The Morsa cooperative work has shown how one can create a foundation for management of complex systems and handle different value concepts.
- A possible solution on challenges related to long-term management of natural resources
- Holistic economic development and management of values happen across financial years, election periods, social groups and bureaucratic lines
- A network and an organization which can handle management of complex systems like rivers and secure sustainability in the long run.
- Impact is central
- Large value of transfer to other areas og the country and Europe for the implementation of the Water Framework Directive.
- Public education, increased understanding for and dissemination of professional knowledge and experiences.
- Stronger regional cooperation, founded on established communication channels.
Experiences from the work in the Morsa catchment area indicate that if one clean up in the wastewater in rural areas, in point sources from centralised wastewater plants and carry out excessive reduction in fertilization with P and soil management this will to a large extent fulfill the goals in the Water Framework Directive in most rivers and streams. In sensitive parts one will need more excessive actions and measures in agriculture and measures that hinder erosion in the river.
Knowledge pays: An example from Vestre Vansjø:
Almost all the 400 farmers got advice in making environmental plan on their farm. In the sub-catchment Vestre Vansjø 40 farmers were encouraged to sign a contract where they received financial support to cover extra costs for doing mitigation measures in order to reduce their P-loads. 29 out of the farmers signed an environmental contract for 3 years including:
- Use of less P-fertilizer than the national recommended level (the use of P-fertilizer is reduced by 75 % in 5 years)
- No soil tilling during autumn
- Establishment of 8 meter wide buffer zones along open water
- Establishment of grassed waterways where large erosion risk
- Establishment of constructed wetlands
The Morsa organization may provide useful information based on its experiences as to which aspects are vital for the successful implementation of a river basin management plan.
Some of the lessons learned may be summarized as follows;
- Ensure all relevant end-users and stakeholders are included and regularly informed about the activities, and that expectations regarding their contributions to the different processes are understood
- Identify possible bottlenecks for the implementation of the river basin management plan at an earliest possible stage, and ensure that appropriate resources are devoted to overcome these possible bottlenecks
- A shared vision based on a common problem understanding is a paramount, as is the shared responsibility for the management of the water resources. This would require an adequate and agreed scientific basis for the assessments leading up to the proposed measures to be implemented
- A river basin management plan needs a long-term perspective. This long-term perspective should also be reflected in the mode of work and how the different stakeholders and involved parties are being approached
- It may, in the long run, be more “sustainable” that measures are being implemented by convincement rather than by enforcement, although such a process can be more time consuming.
- Environmental plans on every farm are essential
- Local foundations are one important criterion of success in the Morsa River Basin. Implementing agreed measures would be difficult without the establishment of mutual trust and reciprocity among the different actors in the river basin. In that connection, the Morsa organization has made an important contribution.
- Establishing shared knowledge has also been crucial, especially to reach consensus about the distribution of costs for the implementation of measures. Even though social capital and institutional capacity is not sufficient fully to explain the collective action, and may not either be sufficient to save Vansjø, these elements have to be at the core of any attempt to achieve results. This is particularly important in this river basin with many dispersed sites of pollution, typical of many persistent environmental problems today.
The investment necessary among other included human resources like members of the board (mayors etc), one coordinator, 1-2 persons in every municipality working with questions related to better water quality (waste water and agriculture, environmental advisors for the farmers, web-side, information and local meetings during the evening. The annual budget at present is around NOK 1,4 mill. per year for financing the administration, common political will in local councils and at national level (government)
The Morsa model is being recommended as a good example on how to organize water management at local water catchment level in Norway.
Three figures attached:
- Organisational structure for the Morsa River Basin
- Map of the Morsa River Basin
- Photos showing: Collective action leads to better water quality ! Western part of lake Vansjø in 2005 (left photo) and in 2008 (photo with bathing children)
- Stokke, K. B. 2006. The Morsa River Basin, Norway: Collective action for improving water quality. In Rydin and Falleth (eds.)
- Skarbøvik, E and Bechmann, M. Some Characteristics of the Vansjø-Hobøl (Morsa) Catchment. Bioforsk Report 5:128