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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

What is the deal with the Green Deal: Will the new strategy help to improve European freshwater quality beyond the Water Framework Directive?

Bieroza, Magdalena; Bol, Roland; Glendell, Miriam

Abstract

Agricultural land use covers almost half of the EU territory and reducing nutrient and pesticide losses to freshwaters is central to existing EU policy. However, the progress of improving freshwater quality and reducing eutrophication is slow and lags behind targets. The Green Deal is a key element of the EU plans to implement the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals. Here, we discuss the opportunities that the Green Deal and associated strategies may provide for the achievement of the water quality goals of the Water Framework Directive in agricultural landscapes. We welcome Green Deal's aspirational stated goals. However, the reliance of mitigation of diffuse agricultural pollution on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy represents grave risks for practical implementation and the achievement of the Green Deal objectives. We also argue that the new strategies should be targeted at tackling and understanding the sources of water quality problems along the full pollution continuum. To maximise the opportunities for tackling diffuse pollution from agricultural land use and achieving the delayed water quality targets, we stress that a range of targeted new instruments will be needed to close the gaps in the pollution continuum ‘from source to impact’. These gaps include: (I) smart and standardised monitoring of the impacts of proposed eco-schemes and agri-environment-climate measures, (ii) active restoration of agricultural streams and ditches and their floodplains to reduce secondary pollution sources, (iii) options to draw down nutrient levels to or below the agronomic optimum that reduce legacy sources, (iv) integrating farm-scale and catchment-scale analysis of trade-offs in reducing different pollutants and their combined effects, and finally (v) accounting for emerging pressures to freshwater quality due to climate change. Incorporation of the pollution continuum framework into tackling diffuse agricultural pollution will ensure that the European water-related policy goals are achieved.

Keywords

Nutrient losses; Sustainable development goals; Diffuse pollution; Common agricultural policy

Published in

Science of the Total Environment
2021, Volume: 791, article number: 148080

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG6 Clean water and sanitation
    SDG3 Good health and well-being

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources

    Publication identifier

    DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.148080

    Permanent link to this page (URI)

    https://res.slu.se/id/publ/112544