“Sea Star” Västervik: Small Steps for Greater Impact

Västervik Municipality in Sweden participated in the Baltic Sea City Accelerator. We take a deep dive to learn about the city, its Local Baltic Sea Action Plan and their work in the Accelerator programme. This article was originally published in our Baltic Sea City Accelerator magazine


Creating big impact through multiple small scale projects

Västervik, with its large archipelago and extensive coastline, enjoys a close relationship with the Baltic Sea. The municipality welcomes around 1.5 million tourist visitors annually, many of whom come for the region’s excellent camping and fishing opportunities. Because Västervik is seeking to nearly double tourist revenue to SEK 900 million by 2020 the municipality is continuously working on a variety of projects to improve water quality in its inland bays and along its coastline.  The main reason is of however that Västervik has responsibility for the Baltic Sea. As early as the 1980s, Västervik experienced extensive algae blooms and knew something had to be done. Since the 1990s, a number of projects have been implemented to improve conditions.

Gamlebyviken - a long-term effort in short-term phases

One major effort in Västervik focuses on Gamlebyviken’s catchment area, with a number of smaller activities undertaken to improve overall water quality in the area.

Phase 1 - Raising Awareness (1999-2004)

The first part of the project focused on an intense studies, inventories, and work to raise awareness. This also included improving small sewer with circulation of nutrients and improved sewage  treatment plants. Overall, it is estimated that these measures reduced 59% of the nitrogen and 53% of the phosphorous load on the local Baltic Sea area, when compared to the mid 1980s.

Phase 2 - Reduced Nutrient Leakage (2010-2013)

The project’s second phase highlighted additional initiatives and proposals to reduce nutrient leakage. Some of the initiatives implemented included:

  • Construction of wetlands in farmland areas,, phosphorus dams, two-stage ditches, structure liming
  • Fishing and biotope conservation measures
  • Mussel farming
  • Increased knowledge and information about the Baltic Sea

These measures and actions have resulted in a greater impact by further reducing the nutrient levels of nitrogen and phosphorus.

Phase 3 - Nutrient Surplus as a Resource (2014-2017)

The third stage of the project focused on how to use the nutrient surplus as a resource, as well as methods to scale up and share these methods with partners and actors within this area. Initial efforts have been completed and implemented, together with local landowners and farmers.

Phase 4 - Blue Vision - Local Baltic Sea Action Plan (2017-2021)

As part of its work on a Local Baltic Sea Action plan, Västervik has identified ca 20 actions to be undertaken. These include reducing nutrient load by a further 92 tonnes/year nitrogen and 1.6 tonnes/year phosphorous from 2016 levels, and to recycle 450kg/year nitrogen and 50kg/year of phosphorous from scale-up of nutrient recycling pump in Dynestad bay. (see side article).

Västervik is on the right track when dealing with local eutrophication issues. It is possible to reduce the nutrient load going into the sea while at the same time increasing agricultural production. Nitrogen and phosphorus are resources that are much more useful on the fields, where they can be absorbed by the plants. It is also about recirculating nutrients to agriculture. This is win-win for both the farmer and the marine environment.
— Dennis Wiström project manager and agronomist Västervik Municipality

Hard work pays off: Västervik wins national “Sea Star” award

Eutrophication from agriculture in the Baltic Sea is a major environmental problem. Västervik municipality demonstrates successful methods for reducing leakage while benefiting local farmers.

A combination of farm-level analysis and innovative thinking has made it possible to implement measures such as a two-stage ditches, structural liming, lime filter ditches, phosphorous dams, and wetlands in Gamlebyviken’s catchment area and in the Loftaån catchment area. The basic idea is that measures should improve water quality without reducing production for the individual farmer.

It is because of this great curiosity and commitment to better water that Västervik Municipality sees results not only in its work, but also that the local farmers are on board. This collaboration and cooperation is one of the key reasons Västervik Municipality won the annual national award “The Sea Star”, which is awarded by the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management, The Federation of Swedish Farmers and The Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions. These projects are moving forward and show good progress, becoming a form of inspiration for additional ideas and for other municipalities surrounding the Baltic Sea.

We are so happy that we have received appreciation for what we are doing. It shows that we have a mandate. We are a team - and can now start working for real.  What we have done so far is just the beginning.
— Gun Lindberg, Sustainability Strategist Västervik Municipality


Naturum and the Trout Route increases Ocean Literacy

Naturum Västervik has developed an interactive game, Trout Route, together with award-winning game studio Hello There, based in Gothenburg, Sweden. The game allows players to follow a school of sea trout upstream and encounter the obstacles they confront.  The main mission of the game is to ensure that as many fish as possible survive in order to advance upstream. The game will be translated into other languages, and will be a valuable tool in raising awareness in a fun and educational way, while also increasing Ocean Literacy, an initiative under SDG 14 for the UN (We impact the ocean and the ocean impacts us - more than we think).

Nutrient Recycling Pump in Dynestad Bay increases Agricultural Yield

The average nutrient concentration in Dynestad Bay (6-16 m in depth) is extremely high; 15 mg N/l and 2 mg P/l, and the seabed is anoxic. A solution developed in Västervik pumps bottom water up and uses it for irrigation on surrounding fields. This leads to increased oxygen levels in the bottom water and reduced nutrient content in the water overall. A pilot project has been conducted in collaboration with the Swedish University of Agricultural Science during three field seasons and the results were promising. In addition to the forage harvest providing a yield increase of 20 percent, the farmer’s need to purchase fertilizer decreased. This measure is also very cost efficiency: 8kg N and 1 kg P can be captured from the bay for 10 euro. Västervik now plans to scale up the operation by investing SEK 250 thousand - primarily on hoses and pumps - to recycle 450kg/year nitrogen and 50kg/year of phosphorous from Dynestad bay for irrigation on surrounding arable fields.