Articles | Volume 12, issue 3
09 May 2008
 | 09 May 2008

Co-operative agreements and the EU Water Framework Directive in conjunction with the Common Agricultural Policy

I. Heinz

Abstract. This paper discusses the significance of voluntary arrangements for the water and agricultural policies in the European Union. The current implementation of the European Water Framework Directive (WFD) and the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) require new approaches in water management. As many case studies have shown, co-operative agreements (CAs) between water companies, farmers and authorities can help to reduce environmental pressures on water bodies. The main reasons for that are: i) water companies are ready to advise and financially support farmers in changing production methods; ii) changes of farming practices are tailored to the site-specific requirements; iii) farmers and water companies are interested in minimising the costs and environmental pressures as they benefit, for example, from modernization of farming methods, and reductions in cost of water treatment, and iv) voluntarily agreed commitments to change farming practices are often stricter than statutory rules. Moreover, precautionary rather than remedial measures are preferred. Tackling diffuse pollution is one of the main concerns of the WFD. CAs can enhance the cost-effectiveness of actions within the programmes of measures so that good water status is achieved by 2015. In CAs all relevant stakeholders, located in catchment areas of agricultural usage, can be involved. Thus, they can help to foster integrated water resources management. In particular, disproportionate costs of changing farming practices can be identified. With regard to the recent CAP reform, financial support for farmers will be linked to compliance with environmental standards and further commitments. This concerns both direct payments and agri-environmental programmes. The experience gained in CAs can provide information on best agricultural practices. Informed farmers are more ready to meet environmental requirements. Because CAs implement the most cost-effective changes in farming practice, it can be assumed that farmers will not face considerable costs due to the new EU water and agricultural policies. Some examples of CAs are described and the significance of CAs in the implementation of the WFD and CAP reform will be highlighted. The article closes with an outlook on the needs of future research activities.