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


Contents table
1. Background 
2. Definitions and delimitations

1. Background

Nitrogen (N) loads from agriculture as well as pesticide application to agricultural fields are affecting ground- and surface water. Good status of both surface- and groundwater is vital to achieve safe drinking water (EC 2000). EU policies and governance are in place (the Water Framework Directive (WFD), the Nitrate Directive (ND) and the Groundwater Directive (GD), but there are still gaps in the implementation of the targets of these directives across EU. Solving these environmental problems call for more effective pollution control, as well as cost-efficient and cost-effective implementation by suitable incentives (Balana et al 2011; EEA, 2019; European Commission 2017, 2018; Shortle, 2017; Skevas et al 2013; Vatn et al 2020; Wätzold and Schwerdtner 2005). This is also called for to achieve the visions and plans of the European Green deal, Farm to fork strategy and greening the CAP, as these initiatives require efficient and coherent policy implementation. Greening of the CAP has been implemented to improve the effectiveness of the CAP in delivering objectives by support to farmers, intending to acknowledge farmers’ joint provision of private and public goods (EC, 2017). 30% of the direct CAP Pillar 1 payments is now conditional on the farmer or region satisfying three environmental ‘greening’ requirements:

  • to maintain a minimum ratio of grassland to arable land,
  • to set aside a share of all arable land as ‘ecological focus area’, and
  • to maintain a minimum level of crop diversity.

Gocht et al. (2017) evaluated the impacts of greening on selected indicators and found a small positive impact. Brady et al 2017 studied the effect on nitrogen (N) surplus from agriculture from the CAP PILLAR 1, and found a small net effect on N surpluses from such a drastic change. Jansson et al 2019 also modelled the effects of removing the CAP pillar 1, and concluded that the support in this part of the CAP contributes to the excess Nutrient loads to the aquatic environment, and that the greening has not been successful.

A large range of measures has been implemented in the EU countries, and they have been successful to some extent, but gaps are still huge and more effective incentives needed. There are also a large number of evaluations of the implementations at national level (Dalgaard et al 2014, Jacquet et al 2019; ) as well as on EU level (EC 2017; Aloe et al 2014; Studies analyzing preferences, economic and behavioral factors affecting the adoption of best management practices are also emerging (Falconer and Hodge 2000; Christensen et al 2011; Hasler et al 2019; Dessart et al 2019; Kuhfuss et al 2016; Vatn et al 2020). There are large differences between EU countries that can be explained by the large diversity in farm production systems, production levels, intensity and farm culture, as well as climate, hydrology, soils etc. There is an agreement that policies affecting water pollution should be aligned to achieve more coherent and improved management of drinking water from surface and groundwater sources. The analyses in this report aims to contribute to identify factors of importance for this alignment.

2. Definitions and delimitations

We define the criteria for best management and governance models as:

  1. Pollution control effectiveness
  2. Cost-effectiveness
  3. Coherence and conflicts between measures, and between nutrient and pesticide policies implementation
  4. Incentives for farmers’ compliance with the regulation

This interpretation of governance aspects means that we are focusing on the measures and practices that are applied, to reduce nitrogen and pesticide pollution of drinking water sources, and the incentives and instruments used for implementation. The evaluation of whether these measures and practices are “best practices” is based on the criteria in the points 1-4 above. The interpretation of “best practices” is often focusing only on pollution control effectiveness (e.g. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (1994) (Code of federal regulations), but we broaden the interpretation of best practices here by including cost-effectiveness of the measures, coherence (if the measures provides reductions of both nitrogen and pesticides or if there are conflicts); and if there are policy instruments in place to ensure the effective and cost-effective implementation.

It is worth noting that cost-effectiveness is used as a criteria here, while the title of the section applies the term and concept cost-efficiency. We define cost-efficient management models as methods and practices that protect drinking water sources (groundwater and surface water sources) from nitrogen and pesticide pollution to the least costs, while cost-effectiveness means that specific objectives or targets of this protection are achieved, e.g. targets for acceptable nitrogen loads to surface water and groundwater, or reduction targets for pesticide application. When we use the words cost-effectiveness and cost-efficiency in this section fo FAIRWAYiS these definitions are applied, but in the literature the terms are often used as synonyms. Some overlaps therefore apply, also here.

Effects and costs from implementing management practices in accordance with national legislations and directives are identified using literature, examples from case studies and the evaluations in »Farming practices: review and assessment. These assessments are used to outline a range of measures being applied in the case studies of FAIRWAY to characterize how effective they are and the efficiency, evaluated in relation to the cost-level (high or low cost in average).

Catchment and farm scale models and assessments are presented to illustrate examples of the measures contribution to cost-effective management and implementation. For this we are drawing on experiences from use of the tools assessed in »Decision support tools. In »Evaluation of decision support tools and »Assessments of costs and benefits using decision support tools we have presented and evaluated results from decision support tools used at catchment scale to identify cost-effective nitrogen and pesticide abatement related to relevant directives, such as the Nitrate directive and Water Framework directive. Analyses with those DSTs are referred to here. It is worth noting that the scrutiny included two catchment models systems for cost-effectiveness analyses, and we delimit the catchment model assessments here to the same model systems. The models are the Danish TargetEconN model (Hasler et al 2019), and the model Farmscoper from UK (

To address Criteria 3 the coherence is assessed by identifying conflicting effects related to nitrogen and pesticides when implementing measures. Criteria 4 is addressed by analysis of implementation mechanisms, such as the use of financial mechanisms (tax, subsidies, and quota), land reallocation mechanisms and partnerships, as well as command and control mechanisms and instruments.

For the assessment of all 4 criteria a number of measures used across EU are presented and analyzed, and the assessment of these measures are made measure-wise and not per country or case studies, as this type of country or case-assessments are made in the other FAIRWAY research themes. Of course there are experiences related to the effectiveness, costs and implementation that are specific for the countries and case study areas, and this is commented.

An in depth analysis has been conducted for catch crops, to enable a detailed analysis of factors influencing and determining pollution control effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, coherence and conflicts as well as implementation by instruments. This measure has proven to be cost-efficient in many countries, and also applied in a number of countries for both surface water and groundwater protection, as the measure leads to required implementation at relatively low costs and a relatively high pollution control effect. But there are also differences between regions and national assessments of this. Identifying these differences as well as other factors that influence implementation is important to be able to identify barriers that can hinder implementation and increase the costs. The assessment can also help to retrieve and present information on potentials for good practices. Catch crops as a measure has also been met by different uptake among farmers in the European countries and farmers’ compliance is important.



For full references to papers quoted in this article see



Go To Top