Land use refers to the socio economic use that is made of land, land cover to the bio-physical coverage of land (Eurostat, 2018d).
The way agricultural land is covered gives information on possible sources of water pollution: on grassland, there is – exept herbicide application in connection with grassland renewal – no intensive pesticide use (DAFM, 2013); on grassland due to intensive fertilisation, nitrate leaching may occur, too (Eriksen et al., 2015; Pervanchon et al., 2005). Conventional fruit- and vegetable growing is usually connected with a high fertilising level and repetitive pesticide use.
EU-wide, the Land Use/Cover Area frame Survey (LUCAS) provides, on the basis of a 2x2 km² grid, harmonised and comparable statistics on land use and land cover. The grid includes 1,090,863 geo-referenced points stratified according to land cover classes (artificial land, cropland, woodland, shrubland, grassland, bare land, water areas, wetlands) and 76 subclasses. From selected sampling points, 270,000 soil samples from the top soil level were drawn and analysed on basic parameters (macro nutrients and soil carbon, pH-level and caterogised according to soil type. susceptibility to erosion and compaction). Elementary data linked to the grid points are available as well as aggregated data on NUTS 2 level within the EU-27. LUCAS data are used by DG AGRI as elements of AEI for the evaluation of agricultural impact (Eurostat 2018d). A land cover classification system (LUCAS SU LC) was published in 2015. This system includes the large majority of arable crops and of grassland (Eurostat, 2015).
On the national, regional or local scale, there may even be data-bases available that provide more detailed information. For the assessment of drinking water quality on a smaller scale, these data-bases probably provide a better quality.
A simple indicator connected to land cover is the percentage of a particular land use, e. g. “% arable land”, % grassland” or “% vegetable growing area”.
In case a particular fertilisation practice or pesticide use for a particular crop is in the focus, the indication of land use may refer to a particular crop.