Sustainable Development Success Stories

Springs project/Operation sources/Bronnen project

Location Flanders Region, Brussels-Capital Region and Walloon Region, Belgium

Responsible Organisation WWF Belgium in partnership with Luxembourg University Foundation (FUL); University of Ghent: Teacher Training Department (DLO); UAB Assurances (since 1996); Aminal (Ministry of the Environment for the Flanders Region).

Funding is provided by Spa Monopole; UAB Assurances; Ministry of the Environment for the Flanders Region; extra funding has been asked to the Ministry of the Environment for Brussels - Capital Region and the Ministry of the Environment for the Walloon Region.

Description Population high density, agriculture and industrialisation exert significant pressure on the environment and freshwater resources. The Springs Project is an educational project aiming at informing and promoting awareness and a sense of responsibility among its target population in relation to sustainable water resources management. The main activities include data gathering on ground and surface water quality; publishing the results in the press; describing and analysing local problems; searching for solutions; exchanges and networking; discussions with various main players in the community, managers and political decision-makers.

Target groups include:

Primary schools : based on an annual theme (1998: rational use of water) teachers encourage children (aged 10-12) to become involved in an information or action project in their local area by measuring, twice a year, the nitrate concentrations found in water in natural springs or wells. Their results are incorporated in the national groundwater quality map. Each participating class receive a "Spring Watchman  certificate. Teachers receive all necessary material regarding measuring procedures and a full teaching kit free of charge.

Secondary schools : Pupils (aged 14 to 18) choose a subject enabling them to carry out research on a problem linked to the quality and management of ground or surface water. Teachers in different disciplines are available to help them carry out their multi-disciplinary, individual or group research. Once a year, these French- and Flemish-speaking pupils meet to exchange their points of view and to share the results of their work. This national meeting day is organised in workshops and attaches enormous importance to youth expression (music, art,& ).

Families : A specific scheme intended for families has been in preparation since 1997. It comprises 3 proposals: measuring the nitrate concentrations in water intended for consumption, preventing water wastage; preventing domestic pollution.

World Day for Water, 22nd of March: every year is used as a key day to inform people of the project with a press conference, publication of a map of results in the national press, press reports and inviting the press to cover field work and a press conference given by the children and questions put to local or regional authorities.

Issues Addressed Freshwater management; Changing consumption and production patterns; Education and public awareness.
Results Achieved Primary schools: almost 2000 primary school classes are involved in the project and have participated in at least one of the 8 monitoring campaigns which have been organised to date. This represents more than a quarter of primary schools in Belgium and almost 150.000 «Springs Watchman» children.
  • 8 maps illustrating the results have already been published and a computer database containing the evolution of groundwater quality has been made available to managers and political decision- makers.

  • The Springs Project has already brought about numerous innovations in teaching and original projects: action undertaken by classes; exchanges between French and Flemish-speaking classes; a notebook for the children to express their ideas and assess their personal achievements (auto-evaluation); change of their consumption patterns (rational use of water at home and in schools).

  • Every press campaign is followed by the publication of about fifty articles in the press and by approx. fifteen radio and television broadcasts. (These numbers are significant given the size of the country).

Secondary schools : 300 secondary schools are involved in the project. A journalism competition for pupils of secondary school age was organised and the best articles describing their research were published in 2 popular weekly magazines.
  • A group of students and teachers from several schools are working together to develop a multidisciplinary tool (Aquakit) to be used for water studies. This tool will be made available to all schools who should desire it.

  • An "Aquadata" database has been created with all the measurements and information gathered by the pupils and can be consulted and supplemented by Internet.

Families : A pilot study carried out between October 1997 and May 1998 with 200 families will allow to further define the message, activity proposals and methodology. The future partnerships for this Family scheme is being set up, strengthened by the interest shown by the Ministries of the Environment in the 3 Regions and the Family League.

Adoption of the Springs Project Charter, a document which formalises the commitment of different partners.

Lessons Learned
  • Importance of partnership and coordination by sharing information and motivating to maintain and reinforce the project s image.

  • Importance of evaluation by presenting and communicating the results obtained and showing coherence between the different schemes;

  • The wide perspective of the project gives each partner and participant responsibilities, according to their level of competence. From now on, the WWF Springs Project will integrate the North-South solidarity into the activities of each target population group, to ensure that the different schemes complement each other and promote a "New Water Ethic".

Contact Mr. Jo Van Cauwenberge / Mr. Luc Michiels
WWF Belgium, Springs Project
608, Chaussée de Waterloo, B-1050 Brussels
Tel. (32 2) 3400 961; Fax (32 2) 3400 938
E-mail: operation.sources@wwf.be