Danish Action lab is involving the consumers
The Action Lab Vester Hjerk is located in the Municipality of Skive. The water supply in the municipality is based on a decentralized extraction and supply structure, aiming to maintain smaller water works such as Vester Hjerk with less than 100 consumers and a permission to extract 35.000 m3 per year.
“In the Danish Action Lab we had a clear ambition to involve the consumers in the process as early as possible”, explains Erling Andersen from Copenhagen University. “Even though we acknowledge that the farmers as land managers have higher stakes, we expect that the consumers can contribute with ideas and opinions on the future management and protection of the drinking water resource. However, the current situation in the action lab is characterized by a rather low participation. For example, the consumers do not show up for the yearly general assemblies of the water work. As long as there is clean drinking water in the pipes they seem to be happy. As a first attempt to engage with the consumers the local WaterProtect partners invited all consumers of Vester Hjerk by mail for an information meeting to present the Action Lab and get the first feedback from the consumers on drinking water issues. “Unfortunately, a few days before the meeting we had to cancel as only a few people had confirmed their participation. As an alternative plan we decided to engage with the consumers individually. In August 2018 we spent three days in the Action Lab area visiting and interviewing consumers in their homes. This approach was much more successful as only a few consumers declined a talk with us.” The visits confirmed that the consumers are confident that the Board of the water works and the Municipality will deal with any issues and ensure the supply of clean and sufficient drinking water. However, the visits also revealed that the consumers actually are interested in drinking water issues and that a majority of the consumers are willing to accept a higher price of the water to ensure the supply of high quality drinking water in the future. Finally, a small majority also supported the decentralized water supply strategy wishing to maintain the local supply from Vester Hjerk. Future initiatives in the Action Lab include a focus group meeting with selected stakeholders including the consumers and a final workshop for all interested to present and discuss the achievements of the Action Lab.
Vester Hjerk Action Lab is located in an area dominated by intensive agriculture. Even though the farmers have higher stakes, non-farmers (more than 80% of the consumers) should also have their say on the management of the drinking water resource.