Policy governance sq

In this section of FAIRWAYiS we examine the coherence and consistency of EU directives and policies on how they apply to farm water management in order to realize objectives from farm scale to national scale and EU scale and how to overcome possible shortcomings. We

  • analyse the coherence and consistency of EU and national policies;
  • make a comparative assessment of governance arrangements in the case studies;
  • identify examples of lack of coherence and possible legal spillover effects;
  • identify cost-efficient and coherent management models to develop legitimate governance arrangements.

Note: The extensive information given here is complete scientific results of the FAIRWAY project, as presented in the project deliverables. Deliverables are being written and added to the website throughout the period of the project, until it ends in November 2021. The availablility of and access to the scientific results is indicated in the introductions to each section

 Public access 
 Restricted access  (for project partners only, to allow authors time to publish their results)



Main authors: Froukje Maria Platjouw, Harriet Moore, Susanne Wuijts, Sandra Boekhold, Susanne Klages, Isobel Wright, Morten Graversgaard and Gerard Velthof
FAIRWAYiS Editor: Jane Brandt
Source document: »Platjouw F. M. et al. (2021) Coherence in EU law and policy for the protection of drinking water resources. FAIRWAY Project Deliverable 6.1R 200 pp


Many EU directives and policies are directly or indirectly relevant for the protection of drinking water resources from agricultural practices. Each of these instruments has its own objectives and requirements.

In this section of FAIRWAYiS we review relevant EU directives and policies, identify legal requirements, and assess their degree of (vertical) coherence with the overall objective of the FAIRWAY project, i.e. the protection of drinking water resources against pollution caused by pesticides and nitrates from agriculture in the EU.

We also assess the degree of (horizontal) coherence amongst the five core EU directives, to identify any potential negative interactions between directives.
»Coherence assessment methodology

The legal directives and policies reviewed are:
»Water Framework Directive,
»Groundwater Directive,
»Drinking Water Directive,
»Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive,
»Nitrates Directive,
»Industrial Emissions Directive,
»Environmental Impacts Assessment Directive,
»Habitats Directive,
»EU Common Agricultural Policy,
»Rural Development Regulation (CAP Pillar II)

We conclude by asking if the overal legal framework fit for purpose and find that several themes recur in both the vertical and horizontal coherence assessments which warrant further investigation.
»Conclusions: is the overall legal framework fit for purpose?


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Main authors: J.E. Rowbottom, B.I. Wright, C. Turner, H. Adamson, K. Dudman, A.E. Boekold, S. Wuijts, S. Klages, M. Graversgaard, B. Hasler, M. Glavan, F.M. Platjouw, C. Simota, I. Lleitao, D. Doody, I. Nesheim, N. Surdyk, I.Wiborg, J-F. Vernoux, T. Beissdelkeskamp, L. Tendler, C. Christophoridis, C. Van Den Brink, P. Leendertse, S. Langaas, A. Dinis Ferreira, I. Calciu, A. Jamsek, K. Kresnik
Editor: Jane Brandt
Source document: »Rowbottom, J.E. et al. (2019) Comparative assessment of governance arrangements in the case studies. FAIRWAY Project Deliverable 6.2R 151 pp


This section is currently restricted to project partners only, who should »Login to access it.

Main authors: Susanne Wuijts, Jacqueline Claessens, Luke Farrow, Donnacha G Doody, Susanne Klages, Christophoros Christophoridis, Rozalija Cvejić, Matjaž Glavan, Ingrid Nesheim, Froukje Platjouw, Isobel Wright, Jenny Rowbottom, Morten Graversgaard, Cors van den Brink, Inês Leitão, António Ferreira, Sandra Boekhold
Editor: Jane Brandt
Source document: »Wuijts, S. et al. (2021) Protection of drinking water resources from agricultural pressures: effectiveness of EU regulations in the context of local realities. FAIRWAY Project Deliverable 6.3R 70 pp


Results from this research task have also been published as a scientific paper:

  • Wuijts S, Claessens J, Farrow L, Doody DG, Klages S, Christophoridis C, Cvejić R, Glavan M, Nesheim I, Platjouw F, Wright I, Rowbottom J, Graversgaard M, van den Brink C, Leitão I, Ferreira A, Boekhold S. 2021. Protection of drinking water resources from agricultural pressures: Effectiveness of EU regulations in the context of local realities, Journal of Environmental Management, 287:112270 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301479721003327

In this section of FAIRWAYiS we draw on research on the coherence and consistency of EU directives and policies (»Coherence in EU law and policy for the protection of drinking water resources) and on the implementation of these EU directives and policies and governance arrangements in the 13 FAIRWAY case studies (»Governance arrangements in case studies), combining these materials with additional questionnaire responses to identify lessons that can be learnt about the coherence and consistency of the application of EU regulations, and their effects at the local level, using qualitative expert data for 13 local to regional governance arrangements in 11 different European countries.

Over the last decades, nutrients and pesticides have proved to be a major source of pollution of drinking water resources in Europe. Extensive legislation has been developed by the EC to protect drinking water resources from agricultural pollution, but the achievement of water quality objectives is still an ongoing challenge throughout Europe.
»Background context

Two aspects of implementation have been studied:

  • the national implementation and
  • the experiences in the local to regional governance arrangements of the FAIRWAY case studies.

Information on the national implementation is necessary to better understand the national context of the case studies. Therefore reference is made to ‘countries’ whenever it concerns national implementation. Furthermore it should be noted that the scale of the case studies differs, from local (e.g. Island Tunø is a small island) to regional (e.g. Derg Catchment a transboundary catchment between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland) and relates to different focal points (e.g. local well pollution in Aalborg) versus regional optimization of fertiliser usages (Lower Saxony). Therefore reference is made to ‘local to regional case studies’.

The OECD Water Governance Principles are used as a framework for our analysis.

A data collection questionnaire relating to the effectiveness dimension of the OECD Water Governance Principles (2015) was completed by each of the FAIRWAY case studies.
»Data collection questioonaire

Questionnaire responses were aggregated per principle and per country for further analysis
»Questionnaire summary results

and according to (1) consistency of EU regulations, (2) coherence across sectors and levels, and (3) mode of implementation and the attainment of objectives at local level.
»Results synthesis

We conclude that the complexities and inconsistencies of European legislation drawn up to protect drinking water resources from agricultural pollution are visible most explicitly at the local level where cross-sectoral measures are implemented and effects monitored. This hampers local and regional efforts to achieve water quality objectives. The upcoming revision of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) creates an opportunity to strengthen the links between different directives and how they can be applied coherently and consistently at the local level. In addition, a more facilitated cross-sectoral approach should be adopted to improve stakeholder networks, both between institutional levels and hydrological scales, to attain policy objectives at the local level.


Related articles

Main authors: Berit Hasler, Ingrid Nesheim, Morten Graversgaard, Susanne Klages, Doan Nainggolan, Claudia Heidecke, Luke Farrow, Isobel Wright, Gerard Velthof, Sandra Boekhold
Editor: Jane Brandt
Source document: »Hasler, B. et al. (2021) Identification of cost-effective and coherent management models for drinking water protection in agriculture. FAIRWAY Project Deliverable 6.4R 55 pp


In this section of FAIRWAYiS we identify cost-efficient management models of water regulation, focusing on pesticide and nitrogen abatement measures used for drinking water protection of both surface and groundwater.

Together with the research on »Coherence in EU law and policy for the protection of drinking water resources, »Governance arrangements in case studies and »Effectiveness of EU legislation in the context of local realities, with »Management practices that reduce nitrate transport and also with »Management practices that reduce pesticide transport, we form the foundation for the FAIRWAY assessment on legitimate governance arrangements to prevent diffuse pollution of European fresh water due to agriculture presented in »Coherent, legitimate and sustainable governance approaches to prevent diffuse pollution of drinking water.

The criteria used as a framework for the assessment of best management practices are: pollution control effectiveness; cost-effectiveness; coherence and conflicts between measures and between nutrient and pesticide policies implementation; and incentives for farmers’ compliance with the regulation.
»Background, definitions and delimitations

An overview of applied measures in pesticide and nitrogen abatement policies is presented, followed by experiences from literature on cost-effectiveness as well as barriers and potentials for implementation. This overview and presentation indicate that the ranking of measures according to costs and effects, as well as cost-effectiveness, depends on the method applied.
»Overview and assessment of measures and instruments

We make an in-depth analysis of catch crops as an example of a measure that has been and is implemented in many EU countries for nitrogen abatement. Catch crops are analysed as a cost-effective means of water protection management and policy and are used in many European countries for both groundwater and surface water protection. Cost-effective nitrogen abatement for water quality protection requires implementation at low costs and with high pollution control effect. To achieve these aims, it is important to identify barriers that can hinder implementation and increase the costs, and vice versa to retrieve information on potentials for good practices. Farmer compliance is important and different incentives are used in European agricultural and water protection policies to implement catch crops as a measure.
»Detailed analysis of catch crops

We make an assessment of policy instruments used in the European countries for the implementation of catch crops, and draw the conclusion that command and control /legal instruments and subsidies are favoured for both pesticide and nitrogen management, but have the drawback that they are not flexible and can be hard to target. An exception to this is mandatory restrictions in groundwater drilling zones which work well but compensation can be hard to negotiate. The economic instruments, often used as part of the CAP pillar I and II, are under revision and have been so several times. This is necessary because uniform payments and greening have shown to be ineffective in delivering environmental benefits.
»Policy instruments used for implementation of catch crops in Europe

An important aim of this analysis in this section of FAIRWAYiS is therefore to identify barriers, potentials and positive incentives for cost-effective implementation and management of catch crops as a water quality protection measure. It is also important to identify potential coherence or conflicts between policies that affect water quality, e.g. nutrient and pesticide policies, which are relevant. Catch crops can increase nitrogen utilisation and reduce losses, but also increase pesticide application.
»Discussion and conclusions


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