We are delighted to announce another new publication by members of the FAIRWAY team
van den Brink, C.; Hoogendoorn, M.; Verloop, K.; de Vries, A.; Leendertse, P. Effectiveness of Voluntary Measures to Reduce Agricultural Impact on Groundwater as a Source for Drinking Water: Lessons Learned from Cases in the Dutch Provinces Overijssel and Noord-Brabant. Water 2021, 13, 3278.
Abstract: Agricultural practices cause diffuse water pollution issues, which is a policy concern across the globe. This paper addresses the reduction in agricultural impact on groundwater as source for drinking water with a governance approach based on a mutual gains approach (MGA) using voluntary measures only. We performed case studies in Overijssel and in Noord-Brabant, both located in the Netherlands, to study the effectiveness of the governance approach on nutrients and pesticides, respectively. The effectiveness was studied by analyzing the engagement process qualitatively and by analyzing the impact of measures at farm scale as quantitative indicators. For nutrients, the effectiveness is expressed in the N-surplus at farm scale and the realization of groundwater quality objectives in groundwater protection areas (GWPA). For pesticides, the effectiveness is expressed in environmental impact points (EIP) at farm scale and the level of groundwater protection areas (GWPA). The results indicate that the engagement process based on voluntariness creates a platform for meaningful engagement, adds to the economics of the farm and reduces the agricultural impact on groundwater quality. However, the nitrate objectives of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) are not met at the level of GWPAs in Overijssel. Due to the voluntariness of the approach, the participation rate relies on the farmers’ expectation of the costs and benefits of the process, and diminishing economic returns prevent the further improvement of efficient nutrient use. Although an enforceable objective and strict deadline for pesticides is missing, the objective has been met at the level of GWPAs using voluntary measures only in Noord-Brabant. An important driver for this effectiveness is the fact that these results can be obtained without incurring economic losses, which may tie into the high participation rate of farmers.