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Farmer perspectives and practices regarding water pollution control programmes in Scotland


  • Barnes, A.P.
  • Willock, J.
  • Hall, C.
  • Toma, L.


Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZ) were introduced in response to the Nitrates Directive (91/676/EEC) which states that all EU countries must reduce the nitrate in drinking water to a maximum of 50mg/l. Farmers within a designated NVZ must adhere to strict rules over the timing and application of nitrogen from organic and inorganic sources. In Scotland, four NVZ regions were designated in 2003, covering around 14% of the land area and affecting over 12,000 farmers. This paper outlines the results of a recent study to understand farmer activities in response to and attitudes towards NVZ regulations in Scotland. A telephone survey was administered, obtaining a response of 184 farmers, supplemented by four workshops held in each NVZ region. This explored, both quantitatively and qualitatively, farmer behaviour and attitudes. The bulk of farmers have made little capital investment since the 2003 designation. Few farmers have invested in increased slurry storage facilities, nor begun to transport more slurry off-farm, claiming to have had enough storage capacity before designation to cover the imposed closed period. Farmer attitudes indicate a mostly negative view towards the perceived environmental benefits, water management and compliance. This can be explained by a number of concerns raised by farmers towards the scientific basis for designations. Furthermore, farmers viewed the restrictions placed on farming practices within NVZs as too inflexible. Given the mostly sceptical perceptions demonstrated by the farmers we call for a more integrated approach to water management at the catchment level. There is a role for policy-makers to provide clearer information over the science and purpose of the designations and also to invest in the transfer of technologies, in particular N-use software which is specifically tailored to NVZ regulations. Also, critical to this would be the development of transparent indicators of water quality. This may start to embed nitrogen pollution impacts within the farmer's cultural framework of decision-making.

Suggested Citation

  • Barnes, A.P. & Willock, J. & Hall, C. & Toma, L., 2009. "Farmer perspectives and practices regarding water pollution control programmes in Scotland," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 96(12), pages 1715-1722, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:agiwat:v:96:y:2009:i:12:p:1715-1722

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Asai, Masayasu & Langer, Vibeke & Frederiksen, Pia & Jacobsen, Brian H., 2014. "Livestock farmer perceptions of successful collaborative arrangements for manure exchange: A study in Denmark," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 128(C), pages 55-65.
    2. Meyer, Claas & Matzdorf, Bettina & Müller, Klaus & Schleyer, Christian, 2014. "Cross Compliance as payment for public goods? Understanding EU and US agricultural policies," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 107(C), pages 185-194.
    3. Glenk, Klaus & Eory, Vera & Colombo, Sergio & Barnes, Andrew, 2014. "Adoption of greenhouse gas mitigation in agriculture: An analysis of dairy farmers' perceptions and adoption behaviour," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 49-58.
    4. Buckley, Cathal, 2012. "Implementation of the EU Nitrates Directive in the Republic of Ireland — A view from the farm," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 29-36.
    5. Andrew Barnes & Luiza Toma, 2012. "A typology of dairy farmer perceptions towards climate change," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 112(2), pages 507-522, May.
    6. Prince Czarnecki, J.M. & Baker, B.H. & Brison, A.M. & Kröger, R., 2014. "Evaluating flood risk and alterations to hydraulic patterns following installation of low-grade weirs in agricultural systems," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 146(C), pages 69-74.
    7. Meredith T. Niles & Margaret Brown & Robyn Dynes, 2016. "Farmer’s intended and actual adoption of climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 135(2), pages 277-295, March.
    8. Strazzera, Elisabetta & Statzu, Vania, 2016. "A Choice Experiment Study on the Farmers’ Attitudes toward Biogas and Waste Reuse in a Nitrates Vulnerable Zone," 2016 Fifth AIEAA Congress, June 16-17, 2016, Bologna, Italy 242329, Italian Association of Agricultural and Applied Economics (AIEAA).
    9. Thayalakumaran, T. & Roberts, A. & Beverly, C. & Vigiak, O. & Norng, S. & Stott, K., 2016. "Assessing nitrogen fluxes from dairy farms using a modelling approach: A case study in the Moe River catchment, Victoria, Australia," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 178(C), pages 37-51.
    10. Gachango, Florence Gathoni & Andersen, Laura Mørch & Pedersen, Søren Marcus, 2015. "Adoption of voluntary water-pollution reduction technologies and water quality perception among Danish farmers," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 158(C), pages 235-244.


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