A multi-actor, participatory approach to identify policy and technical barriers to better farming practices that protect our drinking water sources

Paul Campling*, Ingeborg Joris, Maura Calliera, Ettore Capri, Alexandru Vasile Marchis, Anna Kuczyńska, Tom Vereijken, Zuzanna Majewska, Els Belmans, Lieve Borremans, Elien Dupon, Ellen Pauwelyn, Per-Erik Mellander, Christopher Fennell, Owen Fenton, Edward Burgess, Alexandra Puscas, Elena Isla Gil, Miren Lopez De Alda, Gemma Francès TudelErling Andersen, Anker Lajer Højber, Marzena Nowakowska, Nicoleta Suciu

*Corresponding author

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)


Despite an improvement of water quality across Europe there are many pollution hotspots for both nitrates and PPPs, mainly due to agricultural activities. The BMPs and MMs to reduce pollution from agriculture are well known, and there are policy instruments in place to ensure drinking water standards, but the current approach has not been efficient enough. Within the H2020 Water Protect project the premise was that there is a need for a multi-actor, participatory approach to tackle the issue from a new angle, and to assess why the uptake of known BMPs and MMs was not better among farmers. Seven “Action Labs” were selected that represent major physical, socio-economical, cultural and farming settings across Europe. A methodology of multi-actor engagement was chosen but with different approaches due to the local context. Initially the level of farmers' awareness about water quality issues was matched to the observed uptake rates of BMPs and MMs. In a second survey barriers hindering the uptake of measures were identified. The first survey revealed a low general awareness on the potential pollution to drinking water sources. Despite this, between 24% to 88% of the surveyed farmers per Action Lab were already voluntarily adopting one quarter of the selected BMPs and MMs. The second survey demonstrated the need to address organisational, legislative, sociological and technical barriers. The lack of coordination between different institutional bodies promoting measures and the financial incentives needed to invest and operate these often-costly measures need to be considered. The multi-actor, participatory approach with its improved awareness and collaboration made it possible to identify the crucial factors for improvement - to build a social acceptance among all actors and communicate the issues and solutions from the start.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)N/A-N/A
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Best Management Practices
  • Common Agricultural Policy
  • Mitigation measures
  • Nitrates
  • Plant protection products
  • Water contamination


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