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Call: Improved understanding, observation and monitoring of water resources availability

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Programme
Acronym HORIZON-CL6-CLIMATE
Type of Fund Direct Management
Description of programme
"Horizon Europe - Cluster 6 - Destination 5: Land, ocean and water for climate action"

Assessing the impacts of climate change on our land and marine environments, natural resources, agriculture and food systems, and identifying mitigation options and adaptation pathways, requires interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research and investments across a broad range of activities. Research is needed to better understand who or what is exposed and sensitive to these changes, their underlying vulnerability, the associated costs and adaptive capacity. Research is also required to provide mitigation options that reduce the risk of long-term climate change

The conservation and enhancement of Earth’s natural carbon sinks such as soils and plants, forests, farmed lands, wetlands and the oceans is crucial. The European Green Deal green oath to “do no harm”, requires a careful examination of the trade-offs and synergies among the sustainability goals, including health protection, food and nutrition security, ecosystem services and biodiversity preservation both on land and at sea. R&I has a significant role to play to support the design and implementation of policies that will ensure the achievement of EU climate objectives.

Agriculture has a significant role to play to reduce and mitigate GHG emissions and to enhance carbon sinks. It also needs to strengthen its capacity to adapt to climate change and its resilience. The forestry sector faces similar challenges.

Freshwater resources are increasingly under stress as a consequence of overuse and climate change with wide-ranging consequences for human societies and ecosystems. It is therefore necessary to define the safe operating space in terms of water quantity and availability, reduce the vulnerability to change and enhance our adaptive capacity.

Strengthening the ocean and climate nexus is another priority for the EU. There is growing political awareness of the importance of ocean and polar regions as an integral part of the Earth’s climate system and of the need to ensure the integrity and resilience of these ecosystems.

While new knowledge leading to a better understanding of the impacts of climate change is necessary, a strong priority needs to be granted to the large-scale deployment and uptake of solutions for climate adaptation and mitigation. Environmental observations and related solutions will be necessary throughout, from understanding to deployment.

Understanding the impacts of climate change on primary production and natural systems is a pre-requisite for policy and societal action on climate change adaptation and mitigation. At present, our understanding of the interactions between climate change and ecosystem management, protection and restoration is limited, yet it is crucial to enabling sound decision making for mitigation and adaptation measures. Monitoring and evaluation of the impacts of climate change, land use change and associated biodiversity loss on a range of key issues related to agriculture and forestry are crucial with respect to the transition to net-zero emissions in the EU. R&I are also needed to close knowledge gaps in support of decision-making aimed at preserving the integrity of ocean and aquatic ecosystems through a better understanding of the drivers of change and of emerging threats. Moreover, since water availability is vulnerable to climate change, it is necessary to improve the projections of changes to the water cycle at different relevant scales and projections of the frequency and intensity of extreme events. We also require improved long-term observations and assessment of the effects of climate change on diverse water uses and on the state of ecosystems and their services.

Reducing GHG emissions and enhancing carbon sinks in primary production and natural systems are key elements of the European Green Deal. Achieving sustainable land management and efficient use of natural resources that foster climate change mitigation implies finding the right balance between productivity, climate, biodiversity and environmental goals in the agriculture and forestry sectors, with a long-term perspective. R&I activities will support solutions for climate- and environmentally-friendly practices, to reduce emissions of major greenhouse gases and the environmental footprint of land use changes and agricultural activities. R&I, new technologies and business models are expected to unlock the full potential of LULUCF[[LULUCF stands for land use, land use change and forestry.]] activities in the mitigation of climate change. Results of funded activities will benefit land and forest management and the delivery of multiple services provided by land and forests, such as the provision of goods as long-term carbon stocks in harvested wood products, peatlands and wetlands, the protection of soils, water and biodiversity and finally climate change adaptation and mitigation. Ocean is also a large storage system for the global reservoirs of climate-regulating factors. R&I will advance knowledge innovations to foster ocean-based solutions/mitigation options, helping to close the emissions gap.

Climate action calls also for fostering adaptation to climate change of ecosystems, primary production, food systems and the bioeconomy. Climate change is exacerbating existing risks to livelihoods, biodiversity, human and ecosystem health, infrastructure and food systems. There are growing concerns regarding the role of climate change in the spreading of new plant and terrestrial and aquatic animal diseases, which can jeopardise food safety and security. Human activities relying on the availability and use of water are particularly impacted by variable and extreme weather events, which may at the same time lead to desertification. Agriculture and forestry in the EU are vulnerable to climate change. There is in particular growing evidence about the effects of climate change, and of extreme weather events, on agricultural production and crop yields, which need to be mitigated, and also on the forest sector. Coastal areas are also threatened by sea level rise, saline water intrusion, biodiversity loss, ocean acidification, extreme events and a shrinking cryosphere. R&I will, therefore, be critical to foster adaptation and build resilience in agriculture, forestry and coastal areas. They will aim to deliver on the urgent need to foster the adaptation of primary production, notably by providing farmers and other actors in bioeconomy value chains with better-adapted crop varieties and animal breeds with lower impacts on the related ecosystems. R&I efforts are critical to avoiding, reducing and reversing desertification. Water adaptation strategies and approaches will be developed and tested. Appropriate solutions including water allocation schemes will be developed for businesses, farmers and ecosystems. Potential trade-offs, and measures to mitigate and avoid them, will be assessed to ensure environmental sustainability and to keep the objectives of enhancing soil fertility, increasing carbon storage in soils and biomass, benefitting agricultural productivity and food security and reducing biodiversity loss. R&I will also aim at better understanding how institutions and behaviour shape vulnerability and offer opportunities for adaptation.

Expected impacts

Proposals for topics under this destination should set out a credible pathway to contributing to climate action on land, oceans and water and more specifically to one or several of the following impacts:

  • Better understanding and enhancing the mitigation potential of ecosystems and sectors based on the sustainable management of natural resources;
  • Advanced understanding and science to support adaptation and resilience of natural and managed ecosystems, water and soil systems and economic sectors in the context of the changing climate;
  • Efficient monitoring, assessment and projections related to climate change impacts, mitigation and adaptation potential in order to bring out solutions for tackling emerging threats and support decision-making in climate change mitigation and adaptation policies at European and global levels;
  • Fostered climate change mitigation in the primary sector , including by the reduction of GHG emissions, maintenance of natural carbon sinks and enhancement of sequestration and storage of carbon in ecosystems;
  • Improved adaptive capacity of water and soil systems and sectors including by unlocking the potential of nature-based solutions;
  • Better managed scarce resources, in particular soils and water, thus mitigating climate related risks, in particular desertification and erosion, thanks to informed decision-makers and stakeholders and integration of adaptation measures in relevant EU policies.

When considering their impact, proposals also need to assess their compliance with the “Do No Significant Harm” principle [[as per Article 17 of Regulation (EU) No 2020/852 on the establishment of a framework to facilitate sustainable investment (EU Taxonomy Regulation)]] according to which the research and innovation activities of the project should not be supporting or carrying out activities that make a significant harm to any of the six environmental objectives of the EU Taxonomy Regulation.

This destination contributes to support R&I on climate for areas covered by Cluster 6 notably on the implementation of climate change mitigation and adaptation solutions while Destination “Climate sciences and responses for the transformation towards climate neutrality” in Cluster 5 concentrates on activities related to climate science and modelling.

Topics under this destination will have impacts in the following impact areas of the Horizon Europe strategic plan for 2021-2024 [[Footnote indicating link to the document.]]: “Climate change mitigation and adaptation”; “Enhancing ecosystems and biodiversity on land and in water”; “Clean and healthy air, water and soil”; “Sustainable food systems from farm to fork on land and sea”; ”A resilient EU prepared for emerging threats”; “A secure and open EU society”; and “Inclusive growth and new job opportunities”.

Link Link to Programme
Call
Improved understanding, observation and monitoring of water resources availability
Description of call
"Improved understanding, observation and monitoring of water resources availability"

Expected Outcome:

In support of the European Green Deal and EU water-related policies, successful proposals will contribute to foster the adaptation of water resources to climate change, in particular Destination ‘Land, ocean and water for climate action’ impacts “Advance the understanding and science, and support adaptation and resilience of natural and managed ecosystems, water and soil systems and economic sectors in the context of the changing climate” and “Improve tools and technologies for efficient monitoring, assessment and projections related to climate change impact”

Projects results are expected to contribute to several of the following expected outcomes

  • Enhanced knowledge base regarding water related climate change impacts, vulnerability, risk and adaptation assessments in Europe and abroad.
  • Provide a more complete picture of future water vulnerabilities, including both water quantity and quality aspects, by better considering the interactions among climate change and variability, land surface and groundwater hydrology, water engineering, and human systems, including societal adaptations to water scarcity
  • Support decision makers defining the safe operating space in terms of water quantity and availability, i.e., defining sustainable water management and climate change adaptation measures, meeting growing water supply, food, and energy needs, and controlling the high inter-annual variability in water availability
  • Improve Member States’ preparedness for climate change impacts with respect to floods and droughts and support more accurate decision making for flood and drought risk reduction and response.
  • Improve knowledge of ecological flows in the context of the Water Framework Directive and especially of the impacts of management, infrastructure and climate on ecological flows; improve prediction of drought events and water scarcity and enhance the assessment of the impacts of drought on water quality and biodiversity.
  • Minimise the disparities associated with data collection and reporting between researchers and data agencies, enhance the interoperability, in particular through the mainstreaming of community-accepted standards, metadata schemas and data management best practices in line with the FAIR principles, between data providers and data users and strengthen coordination among various monitoring services
  • Foster commitments between climate change and water scientists, monitoring services, industry, water utilities and other socioeconomic communities to collect, standardise, and widely disseminate information on water use in different sectors.

Scope:

Freshwater resources are under increasing stress as a consequence of overuse and climate change with wide-ranging consequences for human societies and ecosystems. To reduce the vulnerability of ecosystems, society and water consuming economic sectors (agriculture, energy, industry) to climate change, it is necessary to enhance the knowledge on water resource availability and use, on future changes to climate and hydrological systems and on risks of extreme weather events.

Actions should address one or more of the following issues:

  • A comparative assessment of the state-of-the-art integrated river basin models that are currently used for assessing water availability and vulnerability in the context of climate change. Models should be capable of simulating both surface and groundwater quantity and quality issues, as well as water supply and use and land use changes. They should be also able to take into account the socio-economic impacts of future climate change scenarios, as well as the costs and benefits associated with the adaptation strategies defined in response to those. In assessing water availability, an estimation should be made of the environmental flows necessary to sustain the health of both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. The impacts of various management and hydraulic infrastructure systems on the ecological flows of water and sediments should also be considered in this estimation. Assessments should be carried out in several river basins within and outside Europe, which are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts and are facing significant water related problems, with a view to providing policy recommendations for long term infrastructure investments and management strategies beyond the river basins addressed.
  • Improve accuracy and spatiotemporal resolution of regional scale projections of changes in precipitation, soil moisture, runoff and groundwater availability for management purposes, and quantification of the related uncertainties. Projections of changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme events such as severe storms, heat waves, floods, including flash floods and droughts should be also made. The potential of recent global observation studies and data collections, in cooperation with relevant EU earth observation initiatives, such as ESA, should be considered.
  • Development of techniques, monitoring tools and innovative sensors for advance measurement and calculation of current available water balances and future needs and monitoring, leveraging on advanced computation technologies (e.g. high performance computing, edge analytics, cloud computing, and grid computing), artificial intelligence and Internet of Things
  • Development of a long-term observation framework and capacity, in collaboration with the Copernicus programme and GEOSS and any other relevant global observation initiatives, to support integrated analysis of water resource availability in Europe, including the development of community-driven, open access, end-to-end data infrastructures. This framework should be linked the European Open Science Cloud, as a pan-European cross-sectoral data space for research and innovation, and should include all relevant in situ and earth observations needed to monitor and assess the impacts of climate change on water resource availability and to support integrated model developments and adaptation planning responses. Both surface and groundwater resources as well as water quantity and water quality issues should be considered. Particular attention should be given to ensuring availability of data to measure and/or assess relevant water use. In developing this framework, a thorough review of existing observational systems and initiatives at both EU and global level developed over recent years should be undertaken, and experiences and lessons learnt from previous long term water related research studies across a wide range of river basins within and outside Europe should be considered. Cooperation with relevant European water observation institutions and initiatives, such as ESA, EEA and JRC, is important.

Actions should bring together a multidisciplinary and multi‐institutional team of researchers to pursue a combination of field data collection, innovative data analysis methods, artificial intelligence and the development of data‐driven reduced-complexity models for scientific understanding and to guide management decisions, and to support relevant stakeholders and policy makers.

All in-situ data collected through actions funded from this call should follow INSPIRE principles.

In general, the participation of academia, research organisations, utilities, industry and regulators is strongly advised, as well as civil society engagement whenever necessary, also aiming to broaden the dissemination and exploitation routes and to better assess the innovation potential of developed solutions and strategies.

In this topic the integration of the gender dimension (sex and gender analysis) in research and innovation content is not a mandatory requirement.

Link Link to Call
Thematic Focus Research & Innovation, Technology Transfer & Exchange, Capacity Building, Cooperation Networks, Institutional Cooperation, Clustering, Development Cooperation, Economic Cooperation, Climate, Climate Change, Environment & Biodiversity, Circular Economy, Sustainability, Natural Resources, Agriculture & Forestry, Fishery, Food, Green Technologies & Green Deal, Administration & Governance, Competitiveness, SME, Health, Social Affairs, Sports, Disaster Prevention, Resiliance, Risk Management
Funding area EU Member States
Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)
Origin of Applicant EU Member States
Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)
Eligible applicants Research Institution, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, SMEs (between 10 and 249 employees), NGO / NPO, University, Enterprise (more than 250 employees or not defined), Public Services, Microenterprises (fewer than 10 employees), Start Up Company, International Organization
Applicant details

eligible non-EU countries:

  • countries associated to Horizon Europe
At the date of the publication of the work programme, there are no countries associated to Horizon Europe. Considering the Union’s interest to retain, in principle, relations with the countries associated to Horizon 2020, most third countries associated to Horizon 2020 are expected to be associated to Horizon Europe with an intention to secure uninterrupted continuity between Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe. In addition, other third countries can also become associated to Horizon Europe during the programme. For the purposes of the eligibility conditions, applicants established in Horizon 2020 Associated Countries or in other third countries negotiating association to Horizon Europe will be treated as entities established in an Associated Country, if the Horizon Europe association agreement with the third country concerned applies at the time of signature of the grant agreement.

  • low-and middle-income countries

Legal entities which are established in countries not listed above will be eligible for funding if provided for in the specific call conditions, or if their participation is considered essential for implementing the action by the granting authority.

Specific cases:

  • Affiliated entities - Affiliated entities are eligible for funding if they are established in one of the countries listed above.
  • EU bodies - Legal entities created under EU law may also be eligible to receive funding, unless their basic act states otherwise.
  • International organisations - International European research organisations are eligible to receive funding. Unless their participation is considered essential for implementing the action by the granting authority, other international organisations are not eligible to receive funding. International organisations with headquarters in a Member State or Associated Country are eligible to receive funding for ‘Training and mobility’actions and when provided for in the specific call conditions.
Project Partner Yes
Project Partner Details

Unless otherwise provided for in the specific call conditions , legal entities forming a consortium are eligible to participate in actions provided that the consortium includes:

  • at least one independent legal entity established in a Member State;and
  • at least two other independent legal entities, each established in different Member States or Associated Countries.
Further info

Proposal page limits and layout:

The application form will have two parts:

  • Part A to be filled in directly online  (administrative information, summarised budget, call-specific questions, etc.)
  • Part B to be downloaded from the Portal submission system, completed and re-uploaded as a PDF in the system

Page limit - Part B: 45 pages

Type of Funding Grants
Financial details
Expected EU contribution per projectThe Commission estimates that an EU contribution of between EUR 3.00 and 5.00 million would allow these outcomes to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of a proposal requesting different amounts.
Indicative budgetThe total indicative budget for the topic is EUR 10.00 million.
Typ of ActionResearch and Innovation Actions (RIA)
Funding rate100%

Activities are expected to achieve TRL 5 by the end of the project.
Submission Proposals must be submitted electronically via the Funding & Tenders Portal Electronic Submission System. Paper submissions are NOTpossible.

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