|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|
The overarching FAIRWAY objective is to find solutions to the protection drinking water resources against pollution by pesticides and nitrates from agricultural practices. The legal framework is both very comprehensive and fragmented. Many directives apply directly and/or indirectly to the protection of drinking water resources against pollution and many of these impose different types of legal requirements upon EU member states to comply with. Attainment of the overarching purpose depends on the strength, coherence and effectiveness of the legal framework applicable to the FAIRWAY objective.
Here we discuss both the vertical and horizontal coherence of directives, compare some of the emerging themes and make recommendations for further investigation.
Note: The assessment method is described in »Coherence assessment methodology. The assessment of vertical coherence was carried out by ten FAIRWAY partners and are based upon their perceptions and opinions. As such, some bias in the scorings and explanations is unavoidable. However the horizontal assessments of were each carried out by one partner only. To minimise bias and error the assessments were assigned in accordance with the partners’ main fields of expertise.
Details of the analyses are contained in the Appendices of the full report:
We reviewed the vertical coherence of 10 EU directives which may have an impact on protecting drinking water resources against pollution by pesticides and nitrates from agricultural practices. The assessment included the
- »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)
The assessment sheds light on to extent to which the various legal requirements of the various directives contribute to FAIRWAY's objectives (Table 2.11). The focus of the assessment was on legal requirements to protect/improve natural resources that contribute to water quality, including general requirements to protect, enhance, or improve quality status or conditions, and specific requirements, (such as those setting specific limits for certain thresholds values) as well as legal requirements related to establishing the institutional frameworks for achieving improvements in water quality (such as requirements related to establishing criteria, frameworks, catchment management plans and so forth).
Table 2.11 Summary of the contribution of each instrument to the FAIRWAY objectives
|Instrument||Contribution to FAIRWAY objectives|
|WFD||Numeric responses indicate that participants feel that all articles of the WFD are enabling, reinforcing, or indivisible from the FAIRWAY objectives.
Qualitative data suggests that the requirements of the WFD are reinforced by institutional frameworks at the state level, although the plans, programs and measures in place are not necessarily sufficient.
Respondents identified important cross-over or interdependencies between the WFD and other directives, such as the Nitrates Directive; while this interdependency is intuitive (the ND must be upheld to achieve the objectives of the WFD), the interaction is informal. A potential action could be to formalise the interaction institutionally by requiring cross-referencing with regards to monitoring and enforcement.
Numeric responses indicate that participants feel that articles of the GWD related to threshold values and preventative measures are enabling, reinforcing, or indivisible from the FAIRWAY objectives.
|DWD||Numeric responses indicate that participants feel that the articles of the DWD related to protection and controlling harmful substances are mostly indivisible with the FAIRWAY objectives. Articles related to new infrastructure were viewed neutrally.
Qualitative data emphasizes interdependencies between the DWD and other Directives, such as the ND. Respondents expressed some uncertainty about how requirements related to pollutants under the DWD and requirements under the ND interact. This suggests that cross-referencing is required to ensure that the requirements of each Directive support each other.
|ND||Numeric responses indicate that participants feel the articles of the ND are mostly indivisible, reinforcing or enabling of FAIRWAY objectives. One exception relates to livestock manure limits for land application for which opinions were divided. Most participants agreed limits contribute positively to FAIRWAY objectives while one suggested that limits are constraining.
Reasons for this variation are suggested in the qualitative data. Respondents felt that catchment scale limits and targets may be more appropriate than farm scale limits; the cumulative effect may be more important than the individual application of manure. Similarly, the impact on water quality varies geographically.
Interactions between the ND and other Directives may be influenced by these geographical dynamics, highlighting the need for cross-referencing.
|PD||Overall, respondents considered that all requirements of the PD interact positively with the FAIRWAY objectives. Articles related to protection and requirements to establish a framework and national action plans were mostly viewed to be indivisible or reinforcing. Articles related to infrastructure were viewed to be indivisible, reinforcing, enabling, or neutral.
Qualitative responses again emphasized the geographical dynamics of limits and targets, suggesting that set requirements may be more or less sufficient depending on wider context.
|EIA||Quantitative scores reflecting perceptions of interactions between the requirements of the EIA and FARIWAY objectives varied considerably. Most considered requirements related to adopting effective measures and identifying and assessing impacts to be neutral or enabling, however, others considered these requirements to be constraining, counteracting or indivisible.
Qualitative data indicated that some respondents felt that the requirements of the EIA lack the necessary specificity to support other related Directives, such as the ND.
These issues could be addressed by formalising some interactions between requirements across Directives.
|IED||Most respondents indicated that the requirements of the IED are enabling, however, there was some variation, with minority views including that requirements are cancelling, constraining, neutral or indivisible.
Respondents highlighted the interdependence of the IED and the ND in relation to large intensive livestock farms. Some comments indicated that respondents feel the IED is most relevant to industry practices rather than the full range of practices that contribute to the FAIRWAY objectives, which may explain the variance in scores and views.
|HD||Scores suggest that respondents generally believe that the HD contributes only minimally to the FAIRWAY objectives. All responses suggest the requirements of the HD are either enabling or neutral.
Some comments suggest that conservation areas are of relevance to the DWD and GWD because these spaces are less likely to involve use of fertilizers and pesticides. These positive interactions are not formalised and could equally benefit from cross- referencing as would more negative interactions. Comments also indicated the importance of effective implementation.
|CAP||Most respondents suggested that the requirements of the CAP enable or reinforce the FAIRWAY objectives, however there was some variability regarding views of farm requirements and compliance, with some suggesting these requirements are indivisible, enabling or reinforcing and a minority suggesting they are counteracting.
Qualitative data indicated that some CAP requirements interact with requirements of the ND, including those related to buffer zones for reducing concentrations of pollutants. Further, there are strong institutional incentives for compliance; funding is contingent on compliance.
One issue of cross compliance identified was that farmers are incentivised to use pesticides to maintain certain vegetation to be eligible for the BPS, thus increasing pesticide run-off and impacting water quality. Another example of cross compliance identified was that farmers in the Netherlands may plough their land after 5 years to avoid being considered permanent grasslands in CAP, thus increasing nitrate leaching. Overall, while the funding mechanism offers incentives for compliance in some regards, there are multiple cross compliance issues related to the interdependence of other Directives. There are opportunities with the CAP to formalize interactions with the ND and establish cross-referencing.
|RDR (CAP Pillar II)||Overall, respondents suggested that the requirements of the RDR enable the FAIRWAY objectives. Most respondents agreed that requirements to protect and enhance ecosystems are reinforcing or indivisible while the requirement to promote resource efficiency is enabling. Views on requirements to implement measurements and to enhance farm varied considerably, from reinforcing and enabling to neutral and constraining.
Qualitative data indicates that on the one hand, market engagement has driven innovation and sustainability. On the other hand, increasing competition is likely to increase pressures on water resources which may have negative outcomes. Market competition may incentivise less sustainable environmental practices, which may counter the benefits of innovation. Thus, there are competing incentives within the RDR framework.
None of the directives is considered to have a negative average score. Five directives are perceived to be highly important and contribute very positively to the attainment of the overall purpose. These are the
- »Water Framework Directive,
- »Groundwater Directive,
- »Drinking Water Directive,
- »Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive,
- »Nitrates Directive.
As evident from figure 2.11, average scores for these directives varied from 2 to 2.6 suggesting that respondents considered these directives to be reinforcing (+2) or even indivisible (+3) to the protection of drinking water resources.
For all the remaining directives, all average scores are significantly lower yet still positive. Respondents consider the
- Habitats Directive,
- Environmental Impact Assessment Directive,
- Industrial Emissions Directive,
- Rural Development Regulation
to be neutral (0) to or enabling (+1) the FAIRWAY objective. Average scores varied from 0.4 to 0.8, suggesting these directives have a slightly positive effect on the protection of drinking water resources. The lowest average score is given to the Habitats Directive (0.4). The CAP is given an average score of 1.7 and is considered to enable or reinforce the overall objective.
In theory, it could be argued that the overall legal framework is fit for purpose. Yet to what extent this purpose will be realized depends to a large degree on implementation. Concerns include how consistently requirements are implemented by member states, and the ambiguity of key terminology. These factors could have both positive and negative impacts on the vertical coherence of the directives with the FAIRWAY objective. Several directives, including the Habitats Directive and the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive, were perceived to have contributive potential, probably more than indicated by the average scoring rate alone. If this potential is realised fully under implementation, the degree of vertical coherence increases.
To illustrate, conservation measures under the Habitat Directive can include both site-specific measures (i.e. management actions and/or management restrictions), and general measures that apply to many Natura 2000 sites over a larger area, for instance, measures to reduce nitrates pollution. The Habitats Directive could also require restoration measures to achieve favourable conservation status for key Natura 2000 habitats that have been damaged by pressures from intensive agriculture. Restoration actions may involve reversing soil enrichment and re-introducing vegetation, reseeding to restore plant species diversity, controlling scrub, controlling invasive weeds and alien species and restoring hydrological management (e.g. by reversing drainage, restoring groundwater levels and regimes, and flooding and river regulation). This might contribute positively to the protection of drinking water resources, if these Natura 2000 sites and drinking water resources coincide.
Four reccurring themes emerge from respondents’ scores and comments about the coherence of the directives with the objectives of FAIRWAY. These are:
- Divided opinions about the effectiveness of fixed threshold values. Some respondents suggested fixed thresholds are effective, while others raised the concern that effectiveness may vary depending on scale and geographic location;
- Some directives are more supported by wider institutional frameworks than others, Respondent scores may be dependent on knowledge and understanding of biophysical processes, and the impact of EU policies on biophysical processes, and;
- In many cases, participants assigned more positive scores to interactions between requirements with more direct links to the FAIRWAY objectives, and less positive (and occasionally negative) scores to interactions with indirect links to FAIRWAY objectives.
The effectiveness of fixed thresholds for achieving the FAIRWAY objectives
There appear to be divided opinions between respondents about the effectiveness of fixed threshold values. Some respondents suggested fixed thresholds are effective, while others raised the concern that effectiveness may vary depending on scale and geographic location. To illustrate, it has been argued that threshold levels of nitrates (50 mg/L) and pesticides (0.1 μg/L) are not necessarily sufficient for controlling pollution. In the case of pesticides, fixed thresholds could limit the leakage of less harmful pesticides to the environment, while not being stringent enough for other more harmful types of pesticides. Despite overall positive scores, respondents were also divided about the effectiveness of the explicit limit to the amount of livestock manures applied on land (170kg/ha each year). Thus, it was suggested that differentiated threshold levels could be more appropriate, providing a leeway to take into consideration scale and geographic variation when setting threshold levels. The respondents’ comments underscored the limitations of ‘blanket’ approaches to setting limits, thresholds, regulations across diverse geographical landscapes.
Some directives are more supported by wider institutional frameworks compared to others
Legal requirements that are supported by wider institutional frameworks are often scored more positively than those that are not. To illustrate, respondents emphasized the difficulty of ensuring the non-deterioration of large groundwater bodies with variations in quality. And respondents believed there may be disconnect between the large time scales between impacts and effects on groundwater quality, and the timescales over which measures are taken to assess groundwater quality. Thus, in practice it may be difficult to prevent deterioration if measures do not reflect ongoing causes and rates of deterioration. These concerns warrant further investigation into the effectiveness of institutional requirements of environmental directives, such as requirements to establish frameworks (Art. 1 WFD) and national action plans (Art. 4.1 PD)
In many cases, participants assigned more positive scores to interactions between requirements with more direct links to the FAIRWAY objective and less positive (and occasionally negative) scores to interactions with indirect links to the objective to protect drinking water resources.
Scores suggest that project partners view direct interactions between the requirements of directives and the protection of drinking water resources more positively than indirect interactions. To illustrate, the requirement related to remedial action (Art. 8 DWD) targets a different temporal scale of management compared to the FAIRWAY objective. Remedial action includes restoration of degraded resources, while the FAIRWAY objective is perhaps more focused on long term prevention of pollution. Thus, respondents may perceive a less direct relationship between the long-term goals of FAIRWAY, and the more immediate reactive purpose of restoration. Moreover, the requirement to ensure that water used for human consumption should be free from any micro-organisms, parasites and substances which, in numbers or concentrations, constitute a potential danger to human health (Art.2, annex 1 DWD) might be unclear in terms of their relevance for pollution by pesticides and nitrates. Several respondents were uncertain about the applicability of this requirement to the protection of drinking water resources against agricultural pollution. Also requirements from apparently less relevant directives, such as the Habitats Directive, scored generally lower. This could suggest that there is some uncertainty with regard to the relationship between habitats and the protection of drinking water resources against nitrates and pesticides pollution. However, these scorings and comments may also be related to knowledge about biophysical processes. For example, restoring habitats often involves revegetation, which can create a buffer for pollutants and prevent agricultural runoff from entering waterways and decreasing water quality. However, this interaction is much less direct and transparent than more positively scored requirements related to other directives. The distinction between direct and indirect interactions between requirements of EU Directives and the objectives of FAIRWAY is an important finding that may speak to more institutional barriers between conceptualization of water quality policy, and on ground practice.
We also assessed the horizontal degree of coherence between each of the core directives and their individual requirements; the purpose being identify interactions between legal requirements and objectives that could hinder the attainment of the overall goal related to safe drinking water quality or reduce the contributive effect of any one directive or requirement towards achieving the overall goal (Figure 3.21, Table 3.6)
- Water Framework Directive,
- Groundwater Directive,
- Drinking Water Directive,
- Nitrates Directive and
- Pesticides Directive.
Table 3.6 Emphasised highlights of the horizontal coherence analysis
|WFD||Potential disconnect between ND and WFD; in practice drinking water requirements rarely extend to the wider catchment, spatial disconnect. Nitrate requirements should target drinking water quality directly, as well as water quality in the wider catchment because the two are clearly connected. These ideas warrant further investigation.|
|GWD||Article 4.1 of the ND related to reducing pollution could offer an opportunity to formalise cross-referencing between the GWD and the ND. While the interaction is viewed to be positive, there is currently no requirement for cross-referencing.|
|DWD||There may be unintentional negative outcomes of setting restrictions on pesticides without considering the alternative products used by farmers. National action plans may not be sufficient for addressing the spatial dynamics of the entire aquifer. These concerns could be followed up.
Perceptions of interactions between the DWD and other Directives appear to reflect a range of beliefs, including those about cohesion between requirements, as well as wider confidence, or lack of confidence in process and implementation. How these concerns might be addressed, and the appropriate scale of governance to address these concerns could be considered.
|ND||Overall, the requirements of the ND are viewed to interact positively neutrally with other directives’ requirements. However, there is room for improvement. According to the respondents, only a restriction of breeding intensity or a restriction on the number of animals per hectare could support the 170kg/ha limit positively. It should be stressed here that there appear to be diverging interpretations of the requirement related to livestock manure limits; is this requirement about the amount of manure contribute from cattle or about the amount of manure that farmers can use on crops and apply themselves like a fertilizer. As there are diverging views on the scope of this requirement, this is worthy of further investigation. There appears to be a need for increased specificity in the directives to avoid unclarities.|
|PD||Overall, many positive interactions have been identified. The WFD, DWD and GWD are generally considered to contribute positively to the achievement of the PD directive.|
Key emerging themes: Three important themes emerge from the analysis of scores and comments about interactions between the requirements of the WFD, DWD, GWD, PD and ND. Some of these themes reinforce the findings outlined in in the vertical coherence assessment while others are uniqur to the horizontal coherence asssessment. The key themes are:
- Emphasis on the fact that the effectiveness of fixed threshold values compared to more general terms about protecting resources, reducing pollution, and performing restoration are scored generally lowed;
- The tendency for project partners to score direct interactions more positively, and indirect interactions less positively, or occasionally negatively, and the possibility that varying degrees of knowledge about biophysical processes may have influenced these judgements;
- That, with minor exceptions, the scores for requirements related to environmental outcomes, including protecting resources, reducing pollution, and remediation, tended to be more positive than scores for requirements related to the institutional arrangements for achieving environmental outcomes, such as requirements to establish frameworks.
The effectiveness of fixed threshold values
These results reinforce the perceived limitations of fixed thresholds for achieving the FAIRWAY objectives that were also seen in vertical coherence assessment. This is not surprising given that the same partners were involved in both stages of the research. However, the results of the five surveys conducted about interactions between the directives suggest that fixed threshold values may also impede EU laws from supporting each other.
More general requirements related to protecting water quality and preventing pollution were perceived more positively than requirements associated with fixed thresholds. This seems to be due to the risk that a fixed threshold may be appropriate in some contexts, and insufficient in others. Thus, one potential area for improving coherence may be including terms in requirements to necessitate more strict thresholds under certain environmental conditions. For example, it may be possible to identify biophysical conditions that pose a greater risk to groundwater quality than others, and thus, determine that stricter thresholds should be adopted.
There were two exceptions to the tendency to score general requirements about achieving environment outcomes more positively than requirements about specific fixed thresholds. Firstly, in the context of groundwater limits, project partners did not consider any negative interactions between fixed limits and the requirements of the WFD, GWD, DWD and PD. These results contrast with scores given to other requirements related to specific threshold values; in other instances, project partners presented conflicting perspectives suggesting that there are negative risks associated with adopting fixed thresholds. Overall, the scoring for groundwater limits suggests that project partners feel the fixed thresholds related to nitrates may be more appropriate than other fixed thresholds, such as limits to contaminants in groundwater. Secondly, fixed thresholds related to the ND were viewed positively, compared to other fixed thresholds examined in relation to other directives. This may reflect the varying opinions of multiple project partners. Alternatively, the fixed thresholds related to nitrate concentrations may not produce the same risks as those identified in relation to other directives, such as concentrations of contaminants in groundwater.
Another issue raised in relation to fixed thresholds was the potential disconnect between drinking water requirements and requirements that affect water quality in wider catchments. For example, in theory, the requirements of the ND related to the amount of livestock manures applied on land, to apply common criteria for water pollution, and to limit values of 50 mg/l nitrates should target both drinking water quality and wider ecological conditions that impact water quality in catchments. In practice, these linkages are seldom realised due to various complexities. Importantly, these perspectives are subjective and warrant further investigation.
Direct versus indirect interactions & the influence of knowledge
Scores suggest that project partners view direct interactions between the requirements of directives more positively than indirect interactions. However, these judgements may also reflect the varying knowledge of project partners about biophysical processes, and how specific management practices may influence those processes. Thus, the findings presented in this report should be considered in the context of scientific literature about the relevant processes. We recommend a robust literature review to complement these findings.
For example, in the context of the Nitrates Directive, numerous interactions were viewed to be ‘neutral’. There are several explanations for this. In some instances, it is likely that these perspectives reflect a genuine lack of connectivity between ND objectives and other directives, particularly with regards to requirements under the PD. However, in some cases, these perspectives may reflect the more complex nature of interactions between nitrate levels and other environmental concerns. This is consistent with the conclusions of Chapter Two which suggested that less direct interactions may be more difficult to identify and score accurately.
Differences between requirements to achieve environmental outcomes & requirements related to institutional frameworks
Overall, the scoring suggests that requirements related to achieving environmental outcomes are viewed more positively than requirements related to the institutional frameworks that are used to implement environmental policy on the ground. For example, most requirements to protect resource, prevent pollution, and implement remediation are scored highly positively, such as those requirements under the DWD and GWD. By comparison requirements to establish a programme of measures, establish frameworks, and establish national action plans were viewed less favourably. For example, no positive interactions were identified between the requirement to establish a programme of measures and other directives. This may reflect disconnect between the environmental objectives of the directives, and the institutional processes required to ensure those objectives are achieved. Similarly, respondents suggested that national action plans may be ineffective as these are often not targeted at a specific source, but a whole aquifer. Thus, it may be necessary to introduce stricter measures in targeted areas.
Several respondents suggested that the disconnect between environmental objectives and the institutional frameworks employed to achieve those outcomes stems from time-lag between the causes of degradation, observable degradation, and the timescales over which condition monitoring and assessment is performed. One example given was related to groundwater contamination and the time required before measures of condition are likely to correctly identify concentrations of contaminants. However, there was also some variation in scores. For example, institutional requirements of the PD were viewed more favourably than the institutional requirements of other directives. This may reflect genuine differences in cohesion between legal requirements related to environmental outcomes and requirements related to institutional arrangements under the PD compared to other directives. However, these judgements are subjective and may also reflect bias.
Five key themes emerged from the analyses of vertical and horizontal coherence. Themes 1 to 4 are common to assessment of vertical and horizontal coherence, while theme 5 pertains only to horizontal coherence:
- Divided opinions between respondents about the effectiveness of fixed threshold values. Some respondents suggested fixed thresholds are effective, while others raised the concern that effectiveness may vary depending on scale and geographic location;
- Some directives are more supported by wider institutional frameworks compared to others;
- Respondent scores may be dependent on knowledge and understanding of biophysical processes, and the impact of EU policies on biophysical processes, and;
- In many cases, participants assigned more positive scores to interactions between requirements with more direct links to target objectives (whether FAIRWAY with regards to vertical coherence, or links between requirements of two directives with regards to horizontal coherence), and less positive (and occasionally negative) scores to interactions with indirect links to target objectives.
- The scores for requirements related to environmental outcomes, including protecting resources, reducing pollution, and remediation, tended to be more positive than scores for requirements related to the institutional arrangements for achieving environmental outcomes, such as requirements to establish frameworks.
These themes are highly interrelated. Assessors scored requirements that stipulate more general terms related to protection and pollution prevention more positively than either requirements related to fixed thresholds, or requirements related to institutional arrangements. Further, some directives appear to be more supported by institutional frameworks than others. These perspectives suggest that, while the environmental objectives of EU directives support the FAIRWAY objective to protect drinking water resources against pollution by pesticides and nitrates from agricultural practices and support the underlying purpose of each individual directive, there are challenges associated with the practical implementation of legal frameworks. In some cases, legal requirements may be too inflexible and do not account for varying environmental and geographic landscapes. In other cases, the programmes, monitoring schedules, and planning involved in implementation may not be sufficient to deliver the desired environmental outcomes.
Other themes highlight the challenges associated with the research methods undertaken in this research. The subjective nature of scoring, and the varying levels of knowledge of each respondent are likely to have biased the data. However, significant efforts were made to reduce error, such as distributing the vertical coherence survey to ten different work package contributors, and selecting contributors with the greatest knowledge about each individual directive to complete the horizontal coherence surveys.
The information in this section of FAIRWAYiS, together with that in »Governance arrangements in case studies forms the basis for research to be carried out in successive tasks.
In general, we will further investigate the reoccurring themes that have been described above. In particular, the effectiveness of the legal framework to attain the objective of protecting drinking water resources against agricultural pollution, might be adversely affected by fixed threshold values and ‘blanket’ approaches to setting limits, thresholds, and regulations across diverse geographical landscapes. Furthermore, the distinction between direct and indirect interactions between requirements of EU Directives, and the objectives of FAIRWAY is an important finding that may speak to more institutional barriers between the goals and aims conceptualization of water quality policy, and on ground practice. For example, the goal to reduce agricultural pollutants is very clearly linked to FAIRWAY objectives. The fact that institutional requirements, such as establishing frameworks, are perceived as contributing less may indicate a disconnect between frameworks, implementation, and environmental outcomes.
In addition to further investigate the reoccurring themes, we recommend investigating a number of potential inconsistencies or gaps more thoroughly. The three challenges that we consider most worthy of further investigation are the following:
The relationship between the Drinking Water Directive and the Water Framework Directive
Respondents emphasised that there appears to be a potential gap between the risk-based approach to improve drinking water quality at the tap as adopted in the DWD and the wider goal to protect protection of drinking water resources under the WFD. One suggested reason for this disconnect may be related to the physical distance between urban areas and river catchments. Respondents may be concerned about the fact that there are many sources of pollutants in river catchments that are not addressed at the tap. However, it is unclear whether these subjective perspectives reflect genuine risks to water quality. This gap also came forward in the evaluation of the Drinking Water Directive (98/83/EC) as an area for improvement.
Another example of this disconnect is related to groundwater bodies. Respondents highlighted that, the WFD only takes into consideration, the number of groundwater bodies used for drinking water purposes, without taking into account the water volume size of these bodies. Thus, a member state could use the size of a groundwater body to get a more favourable outcome. The member state could have a very small groundwater body with ‘good status’, while also having a very large groundwater body with ‘poor status’ requiring additional measures. By a mere focus on number, this would equal to 50% compliance while the actual quality status of all sources would be poorer.
The recent revision of the DWD (EU/2020/2184) introduces a risk-based approach from source to tap, including risk identification, risk assessment and risk management, following the methodology of ‘Water Safety Plans’ as was introduced by the WHO (WHO 2009). This risk-based approach aims to strengthen the links between de DWD and the WFD and the GWD and connects to WFD-methodologies regarding characterization of water bodies and pressures, risk-based monitoring, and the objectives of Article 7 (2000/60/EC). This enables authorities to concentrate on potential risks to water quality at the source and its catchment (Article 8, DWD) onto distribution, but also requires adequate programmes of measures to prevent and mitigate risks and monitoring programmes to identify effects of these measures. Timelines are being aligned to the WFD. Furthermore, monitoring should be risk based including possible emerging contaminants. The WFD is not yet so explicit in the monitoring of emerging contaminants. The revised DWD should transposed by MS within 2 years from the introduction. As it seems, the gap identified seems to be resolved by the revision of the DWD. However, the first set of data for the DWD needs to be delivered at the formal end date of the WFD (2027). So, it remains somewhat open how these linkages will develop in practice.
The relationship of the Water Framework Directive and the Nitrates Directive
Respondents suggest that there is a potential disconnect between drinking water requirements under the Nitrates Directive and requirements that affect water quality in wider catchments pursuant to the Water Framework directive. For example, in theory, the requirements of the ND related to the amount of livestock manures applied on land, to apply common criteria for water pollution, and to limit values of 50 mg/l nitrates should target both drinking water quality and wider ecological conditions that impact water quality in catchments. However, the objectives of the ND are primarily related to drinking water quality and only to ecology in the context of eutrophication. Some respondents therefore argue that existing requirements related to the use of fertilizers and manures are not comprehensive enough to support WFD ambitions. Respondents had different views on the nature of the relationship between the WFD and the ND though, and therefore we recommend this issue to be examined further.
Potential negative effects of the funding mechanism under the Common Agricultural Policy
Some respondents identified potential negative consequences of the CAPs funding mechanisms on the protection of drinking water resources. To illustrate, the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) linked with CAP and cross compliance could means that farmers are keeping land in production just to receive this payment. In certain areas, farmers are spraying pesticide to remove rushes, so that the land is eligible under the BPS. This is resulting in an increase in pesticide run-off to the river. In addition, the areas declared for the BPS are also used to calculate the farm’s organic N loading for the Nitrates Directive. For that reason, a farmer can legitimately increase his/her stocking density up to 170kg/ha organic N, even though the land may not be able to support this agricultural intensity. Furthermore, farmers may also plough their grasslands within 5 years, to avoid that their grasslands will be considered as permanent grasslands in CAP, with more strict regulation. Ploughing of grasslands can strongly increase nitrate leaching. Overall, the CAP is perceived to contribute positively to the protection of drinking water resources against nitrates and pesticides pollution from agricultural resources. However, the funding mechanism and its implementation might also have some drawbacks that could affect drinking water quality adversely. This needs to be explored further.
5. Specific suggestions for cross referencing and formalising interactions in the EU legal framework
WFD, DWD and GWD
WFD, DWD, GWD were viewed to be interdependent on one another, however, the connectedness is not formalised in any way. There are opportunities here for cross referencing. One option would be to include these requirements as an additional component to existing requirements related to institutional frameworks, such as WFD Article 1, ‘To establish a framework for achieving or maintaining good status of inland surface waters, coastal waters, transitional waters and groundwater, with reference to, and in collaboration with parallel frameworks put in place with the DWD and GWD’. Another example might be the WFD Article 13.1, ‘To ensure that a river basin management plan is produced for each basin district lying entirely within their territory, including actions and objectives for ensuring compliance with the thresholds and *requirements* of the DWD and the GWD’. Similar adjustments could be made to articles referring to programmes of measures (e.g., WFD Article 11.1) to reflect the interdependence of Directives, such as ensuring that programmes of measures consider the thresholds and relevant requirements in the DWD and GWD.
EIA, IED and ND
There is also interdependence between the EIA, IED and ND suggesting that the implementation of these Directives would benefit from cross referencing. There are opportunities to improve the outcomes of the ND by ensuring consistent specificity between the ND, EIA and IED towards achieving the FAIRWAY objectives.
CAP and RDR
Views expressed on the CAP and RDR raise concerns about competing incentives for farming communities to simultaneously innovate towards sustainability and sacrifice sustainable practices to engage competitively in markets. Issues of cross-compliance, such as increasing pollutants to remain eligible for funding, suggest a need for cross referencing between the requirements of the CAP and RDR and other directives, such as the ND and the DWD. More specifically, market-based instruments work most effectively when implemented within a framework that mitigates potential side-effects, such as ‘perverse incentives’ associated with increasing pesticide use to remain eligible for financial support. This, and other such ‘perverse incentives’ should be revisited and the introduction of guidelines or additional peripheral requirements for the CAP and RDR to uphold the underlying principles of other Directives, including the ND, such as Article 4.1 related to a code of conduct.
Note: For full references to papers quoted in this article see