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


Data collected in the questionnaire (»Data collection questionnaire) were were aggregated per principle and per country for further analysis (»Methodology: 3. Questionnaires). 

Contents table
1. Results for OECD principles in the dimension ‘Effectiveness’
2. Results for OECD principles supporting the dimension ‘Efficiency and Trust & Engagement’

1. Results for OECD principles in the dimension ‘Effectiveness’

Principle  Results from interviews
1 Clear roles and responsibilities

All countries have transposed relevant directives into national law. Greece and Germany have received notifications for not meeting the requirements of the ND. Germany has adopted on May, 1st 2020 towards a stricter implementation of ND. Greece the lack of plans for nitrate minimization in vulnerable areas had to be overcome (ECJ C-149/14). Norway as an European Free Trade Association (EFTA member) implements all the focal directives of this report.

The allocation of roles and responsibilities is clearly demarcated at the national level in the planning phase. For the regional/catchment, local and farm level, the division of these roles and responsibilities for (strategic) planning often becomes less clear, , although in most of the countries studied, farmers have to prepare a plan for the usage of fertilizers and pesticides and specify, for pesticides, records of spraying, how to protect the aquatic environment, and integrated pesticide management.

Implementation takes place at the river basin, regional or catchment level. The preparation of river basin management plans in Denmark takes place at the national level. Other countries may have more regionally oriented river basin committees, in which all actors involved are represented (e.g. Portugal). Such committees by themselves however have no formal authority. Farmers are in some cases represented in these committees (e.g. Norway and the Netherlands). In Norway there is on river basin (district) level a distinct reference group, on sub-basin (sub-district) level there are representatives from farmer organisations present (observation status).

In most countries studied, except for UK and Denmark, different ministries are responsible for agriculture and environmental protection. Collaboration at a national level between ministries and between water authorities was reported as in place and working. Focusing on the river basin and catchment level good collaboration has been reported as well (e.g. Denmark, France and Norway). In these relationships farmers organisations may be represented, but there is little direct collaboration with individual farmers and often limited to the case study areas (e.g. Overijssel (Netherlands)).

Collaboration tools reported were a pesticide forum brings together a range of organisations, key role under the national action plan in providing stakeholder interaction (England), incentives from cross compliance and enforcement to adherence of good agricultural practice. Inter-administrative commissions and county offices (Romania and Norway) and advisory boards for river basin management committees (Portugal), state regional representatives (France) and a leading role for water agencies (Slovenia). Due to the federal structure of Germany, co-ordination agencies or commissions (joint working groups) with contractual arrangements are established at the national, federal, and river basin levels both for the WFD and ND. Additionally to already identified sharing of roles between actors, co-ordination agencies or commissions (joint working groups) with contractual arrangements are established in Germany at the national, federal, and river basin levels both for the WFD and SUD directives.

Obstacles to effective horizontal collaboration between different authorities and agency’s mentioned are competing interests between sectors and institutional levels (Norway, England, Germany, Romania, Slovenia), municipal stakeholders are involved in the management of water companies (England, Portugal), lack of monitoring data (Slovenia) or access to data (France, Germany), limited decision making powers or round table setting (Germany) and lack of staff (e.g. Germany (national level) and France) and citizen engagement (Portugal).

2 Appropriate scales within basin systems

Management instruments to support drinking water pollution control are used by all countries studied, yet different strategies have been opted for by individual countries to facilitate the use across levels and scales. England and Germany reports a high degree of advice and guidance for farmers at catchment and farm level for implementing the high level of regulation cascading from national and regional levels. Slovenia, Germany and Portugal stress a strong role for enforcement and cross-compliance. Other countries refer to the importance of monitoring and reporting and the development of programmes of measures of the WFD (e.g. France, Norway, Denmark). For Greece, a large variation was reported between management used for the different directives. In Norway regional drinking water authorities are invited to comment on municipal area planning.

The designation of safeguard zones around drinking water resources has been mentioned frequently as a successful instrument for protection. Other (mandatory) instruments mentioned are the use of monitoring to support the evidence base and the development of programmes to support a sustainable use of pesticides (education on use by farmers, Portugal, Norway, Germany, and ‘Get Pelletwise' Campaign, UK) and manure (nitrate vulnerable zones, Greece).

The issue of scale is not regarded as a major issue for the countries studied, but rather the involvement of different sectors regarding agriculture and water quality (e.g. Germany and Greece).

River basin management committees (Slovenia, Netherlands, France and Denmark) and sub-basin committees (Norway) are reported as successful bridging mechanisms between different sectors but often lack a formal status. Similar examples are given for protection zones and nitrate vulnerable zones. Slovenia describes that the whole country has been designated as a nitrate vulnerable zone and issues are therefore all addressed at the national level. Germany reports a working group for SUD (Sustainable Use of Pesticides) implementation as a good example for bridging the administrative and other boundaries. In this group national and federal governments are participating.

In general, monitoring at the national and river basin scale meets the requirements set by the EU Directives. Cascading to regional, local and farm level, monitoring becomes more sparse and there are differences between countries. Germany, Norway and Portugal for instance, report on the monitoring by farmers on use of fertilisation and N-budgeting. Romania sets rules for water quality monitoring by farmers. Other countries report on voluntary initiatives by farmers and/or water companies (Germany, Netherlands).

All countries stress the importance of environmental information, although socio-economic implications may play a major role in the decision making when stricter measures need to be implemented (Germany). The citizens engagement is used only limitedly so far in the process of decision making. In Germany, there is a citizen science project collecting and analysing nitrates from private and public groundwater extraction points and from surface waters. Other factors mentioned as relevant in the process of decision making are the overriding interest of the right to water (Slovenia) and the costs for providing good quality drinking water (France).

Frameworks for collaboration in transboundary river basins are in place, although the extent of collaboration differs.

A large variation between the level of collaboration and access to data has been reported for the various transboundary river basins. The large river basins in central Europe are to a great extent transboundary. Some countries have only few transboundary river basins, so this is of less concern to these countries.

There is a large variety between countries on their approaches towards public participation. Some countries report a well-developed participation at the national level (e.g. Northern Ireland, Germany) decreasing to lower levels. Other countries report that public participation primarily takes place at the river basin (Portugal), regional or local level (Denmark, Norway, England, Netherlands). In Norway there is public participation both at basin and sub-basin level, although this differs to some degree among basins/sub-basins. Farmers can participate as citizens or by NGOs (Norway and England). Options for online consultation are not always known to the public (France).

Only England reports a regular assessment of stakeholder engagement for drinking water. (The OFWAT has its own public and stakeholder groups who hold the Drinking Water Companies to account etc.). In Germany, drinking water quality is a relevant topic among a number of stakeholders. There exists a range of studies on the public costs of the drinking water pollution.

3 Policy coherence

The level of data and information sharing varies between countries. All countries studied report that data related to the WFD are open to the public. The way they are opened up varies, from open data platforms (England), websites (France) and river basin management plans (Slovenia). Data related to farming practices is much less commonly shared and often restricted to mandatory sharing (France), e.g. for licensing (Portugal).

Instruments reported for policy coherence relevant to horizontal collaboration in water quality governance include: multi-sectoral conferences (e.g. Germany, Greece, Norway), conferences for transboundary river basins (Portugal, Romania), interdisciplinary workshops (Netherlands), inter-agency programs for specific issues (Northern Ireland, Portugal and Norway), information sharing with the agri-food-industry (Northern Ireland) and guidance on best practices (England). Some countries report horizontal communication as limited (e.g. France, Greece) and lack of clarity in responsibilities (water and agriculture).

Vertical coordination across different levels of governance is reported as limited for several countries for nitrates. Obstacles reported are data protection at farm level (Germany), disconnect between national policy and bottom-up initiatives (Netherlands, England), fragmentation of policy objectives (Norway), overlapping responsibilities (Greece), lack of funding for local collaboration (Greece, Slovenia).

4 Capacity

Authorities in most cases have the capacity to lead, monitor and evaluate the execution of policy plans. Lack of staff and finances has been reported frequently as an obstacle to carry out all responsibilities (e.g. Germany, especially on the legislative level, and England). A decrease of resources cascading from the national level to the regional/catchment level can be identified for some countries (e.g. Greece, Netherlands), but it can also be the other way round: lack of staff at the top, national level and sufficient staff at the bottom, e.g. for farm advice (Germany).

Several governance measures have been adopted by countries to build capacity to deliver water policy measures. Collaboration with the private sector (public authorities, private water companies and the agri-food industry) is reported. In England, the agency called Natural England (a non-departmental public body, sponsored by Defra) has teams of catchment advisors. This organisation enhances collaboration further by contracting private consultants to deliver water advice to farms. The Environment Agency makes Catchment Base Approach (CaBA) grants available to host catchment’s partnerships. Some countries report the blocking role of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation, EU/2016/679) for data sharing between local projects.  

2. Results for OECD principles supporting the dimension ‘Efficiency and Trust & Engagement’ (OECD 2015)

Principle Results from interviews
12 Monitoring & Evaluation

All countries report that monitoring systems for water quality are in place. Yet the resolution of the monitoring locations may be different between countries and within countries between basins and regions. It is unclear whether the monitoring in place is adequate to monitor the effect of measures undertaken within the MAP. Monitoring groundwater quality in relation to certain measures in short term only works for shallow groundwater layers (see »Results synthesis: Lower Saxony Case, Textbox 2). Measuring the effect on deeper groundwater layer takes too long (groundwater travelling time of up to several decades). Moreover, the effect of denitrification will mask an effect of measures.

There are differences between countries as to whether programmes of measures are being adapted based on the monitoring results. Monitoring is used for identifying pressures (France, Norway), selection of the case study area (Germany) or most adequate measures (the Netherlands). Romania, England (not Northern Ireland) and Norway report that programmes of measures are being adapted based on monitoring results.

10 Stakeholder Engagement

Stakeholders involved include public authorities, water companies, farmers' organisations, industry associations, NGOs and experts, such as agricultural advisors and consultants. Several institutional levels are involved in the process of implementation. Interaction with stakeholders does not take place at all levels. Within the case studies, farmers and local citizens are being given the opportunity to be engaged. For some countries the stakeholder engagement set up for the case study is reported as a new way of collaboration (e.g. Slovenia).

Stakeholders in the MAPs have been engaged based on their interest in clean water, local knowledge, knowledge on best practices (e.g. catchment advisors (England, Portugal)), sources of pollution (e.g. Slovenia, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Norway), established networks (Northern Ireland, Germany, Portugal) and the means and power to act (e.g. Slovenia, Romania, Denmark).

Focus of the case studies is on farming and water quality, so this directed who was invited and who was not. Several countries report that any actor who wants to participate can, yet when voluntary measures are at stake, not all farmers want to participate. Norway reports that private commercial actors have not been included yet in the river basin committee because of their primarily economic focus. Yet, the importance of their role is acknowledged in the process, so dialogue are frequent, and other meeting arenas exist. Other motivations for restrictions are group size (to allow discussions) and costs (advisors). England reports that some stakeholders are reluctant to speak if the regulator is also part of the stakeholder group.

Some countries report that different authorities from different institutional levels participate in the MAP (e.g. Germany, Norway, France). Others report a disconnect between the different levels (e.g. Greece) or a single layer governance approach (Slovenia). This may also differ for different case studies and regions (e.g. Germany). Not all stakeholders have been asked how they value the engagement process. But for those who have been asked, the stakeholders are positive. Germany (parts of Lower Saxony) indicates that all of them still participate, the Netherlands report that farmers feel that they are taken seriously. Top down decision making is regarded as a serious draw back from stakeholder engagement (e.g. Greece, France, Slovenia). Northern Ireland observes that the importance of clean drinking water makes it relatively easy to engage stakeholders.

11 Trade-offs across users, rural and urban areas, and generations The role of trade-offs of costs, benefits and distributional effects of various alternatives in agreed service level decisions in the case studies is dependent on how many of the measures that need to be taken are legally based. Portugal for instance, with a strong legal base for measures that need to be taken, uses the 'polluter pays' principle, that has been anchored within the legal framework. For other case studies, that rely more on voluntary based measures, a balanced trade-off between costs and benefits for farmers, is much more prominent in the selection of measures (e.g. Denmark, Netherlands, Northern Ireland and Norway).
9 Transparency and integrity in decision-making

Conflict prevention and resolution is addressed in different ways. Northern Ireland refers to the communication plan in The Rivers Trust for the Source To Tap project that as a means, Germany (Lower Saxony) to Round Tables for Agriculture and Water Protection and the Netherlands to the agricultural advisor as arbiter. Legal procedures are rarely used for conflict resolution regarding nitrate and pesticide pollution e.g. due to difficulties related to control and proof of an offence (Germany).

Countries report as mechanisms for conflict resolution arbiter role of the municipal agricultural advisor and MAP coordinator (Norway, Netherlands), cross-compliance (Portugal), financial incentives (Germany: farmer-waterworks cooperation), compensation and land consolidation (Denmark), agricultural support (France, Germany), public consultation and the role of civil initiative (Slovenia).

Public consultation (Slovenia), baseline regulation (Portugal) and voluntary agreements and compensation (Denmark) have been reported as being used for conflict resolution.

7 Regulatory frameworks in place and enforced Regulatory frameworks and enforcement play an important role in achieving jointly agreed policy objectives, although there are different views regarding the right balance between voluntary and legal based measures for these objectives. Some countries rely primarily on legal based measures (e.g. Portugal, Germany) and a strong role for enforcement, other countries are more committed to voluntary measures and enforcement (e.g. Netherlands, France), or there is a mix of both types of instruments (e.g. Denmark and Norway). Economic incentives, such as compensation, play an important role for both voluntary and mandatory measures (e.g. Denmark, Germany and Norway). Norway refers to the information provided by the municipal agricultural advisor, the MAP coordinator and research projects as an incentive, for instance for cases where there is disagreement on the cause of a problem.
5 Data & Information Most countries studied report that measures are based on both knowledge of issues, possible interventions and possibilities of the legal framework. Especially for the latter, the link to the legal framework differs for countries. Several countries rely on voluntary based measures where the link is less explicitly on nitrate and pesticides reduction, but may be driven by economic motivations as well. Knowledge is based on scientific studies and best practices in other areas. Agricultural advisors play an important role. Little notification has been made in the responses of the use of learning by doing (adaptive capacity) to improve the effectiveness of interventions.



For full references to papers quoted in this article see


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