Main authors: Berit Hasler, Fiona Nicholson, John Williams, Rachel Cassidy, Linda Tendler, Peter Lendertsee, Marije Hoogendoorn, Rikke Krogshave Laursen, Doan Nainngolan, Ingrid Nesheim
FAIRWAYiS Editor: Jane Brandt
Source document: »Hasler, B. et al. (2019) Assessment of costs and benefits for farmers, water companies and society from using Decision Support Tools. FAIRWAY Project Deliverable 5.3 49 pp


Here we describe the criteria used to assess the costs and benefits of using decision support tools for farmers and water companies, administration and society as a whole.

Contents table
1. Criteria for assessments of DSTs at farm level.
2. Criteria for assessments of DSTs for costs and benefits for water companies, administration and society as a whole

1. Criteria for assessments of DSTs at farm level.

i. Assessment of direct costs for the farmers

  • These costs include user costs and fees related to the use of the DST.
    Question: Is there a price on purchasing the DST, annual fee or other type of payment, or is it free? How do we evaluate the effect of the price/no-price on the uptake/use of the DST?
  • Payment for advise by advisory services: Question: Is advice necessary and is there a fee/payment?
  • Time and costs of time.
    Question: How much time is used by advisors and farmers when using the DST?
  • The direct effects on profits.
    Question: Is it possible to estimate the effects on the economic outputs in terms of decreases or increases in yields, changes in inputs, time spent and the increased or decreased uncertainty of the outcomes? Are there any data from DSTs on changes in inputs (fertilisers, pesticides) – can examples from the DST’s be included as an example?
  • Changes in the risk of obtaining the target yield are also of importance.

ii. Assessment of indirect costs for the farmers:

  • The indirect costs for the farmers include transaction costs, e.g. costs of using and learning to understand and use the tools, costs of reporting, if such information is available.
    Question: Short assessment of the costs of learning and practising this type of DST, if no information exist, then this point is described qualitatively based on expert judgement.

iii. Evaluate and assess the benefits of using DSTs at farm level

  • The benefits of using the tools for the farmers is evaluated in terms of saved costs, including information on whether use of the DST reduces or increases risk.
    Question: Are there any data/information on saved fertiliser or pesticide use that can be used to calculate reduced nutrients and pesticides? Cf. earlier question under 1.
  • Benefits from advice for implementation of abatement measure to ensure cross-compliance, according to the CAP and national regulations.
    Question: Does the DST include advice on how to fulfill cross compliance or other requirements due to the CAP? Even though this benefit varies greatly between farms and might be difficult to assess at general level, there is no doubt that advice on how to secure cross compliance, which is compulsory in EU, has been and is important.

iv. Evaluation of the DSTs ability to assess costs and benefits

In this section we sum up the evaluation points in i, ii and iii. We also add information on the use and uptake of the DST among farmers in the respective countries, and discuss the causes for uptake, as well as potential obstacles for the uptake. For this assessment we look at whether the functions described and identified in »Evaluation of decision support tools for the likelihood for a DST to be succesful have been fulfilled, cf. Figure 1 (Laursen et al., 2019). The criteria in Figure 1 used for the evaluation are marked with a red cross.

D53 fig01
Figure 1



2. Criteria for assessments of DSTs for costs and benefits for water companies, administration and society as a whole

i. Costs

In this part of the evaluation of DSTs, two catchment DSTs were chosen as good examples for assessment of costs and cost-effectiveness for water companies, adminstration and society as a whole. Important criteria for this assessment are the ability for of the DST to model:

  • cost-effective solutions;
  • how measures and spatial scale are taken into account;
  • distribution between farms/farm types/regions
  • ability to model and to assess risk and uncertainty.

This part of the assessment includes two examples of catchment tools that model and estimates costs and cost-effectiveness of implementing measures to reduce nutrients and pesticides to surface water and/or groundwater, and a description on what information these catchment tools provide for adminstration at various levels, decision makers and water companies/water works. The examples include illustrations on how costs and cost-effectiveness are displayed for end-users, and short descriptions on how the results are used by managers/end-users.

ii. Benefits of water quality improvements

DSTs that address benefits can be assessed using the following criteria:

The benefits should represent the populations’ willingness to pay for water quality protection or improvements to be comparable to the costs and to enable cost/benefit analyses. The benefits should be estimated for

  • a defined level of change; e.g. quality change from a baseline to a policy target (e.g. a limit value for groundwater pollution or a defined level of ecological or chemical status such as in the Water Framework Directive).
  • the population affected.

For this type of valuation both cost-based and utility-based approaches exist. A direct way to value the benefits of water quality improvements is by use of stated or revealed valuation approaches, where the value of groundwater or surface water quality improvement is valued, and where the benefits of these improvements are measured for the population affected. There are a large number of such studies available, and these studies are used to apply benefit transfer and meta regression analyses, i.e. value estimates are either transferred to use at another place, or by meta regressions where data from a large number of original studies on specific problems and areas are used. The meta regression analyses and functions are established in order to make models for decision support, by using primary and original studies and data to provide more generic information of the value on an environmental improvement.

Ecosystem services mapping and valuation approaches are also examples of approaches for assessments of the benefits of water quality improvements, as this type of approach can be used to value a large range of benefits from the improvements in water quality. The ecosystem services mapping approaches are spatial, and can include information from the above mentioned meta regression analyses.

If the tools for assessments of costs and benefits address coherent implementation of nutrient and pesticide emissions and pollution, this will also be described, as tools that integrate assessment of more than one pollutant can prevent unintended effects on the other pollutants.


Note: For full references to papers quoted in this article see

» References


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