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In the Netherlands, agricultural activities are one of the major diffuse sources of nutrients and crop protection chemicals. A national legal and regulatory framework has been developed to combat the environmental burden from the agricultural industry. This resulted in the implementation of a government decree (AMvB) in the year 2000. Under pressure from NGOs, the Hollandse Eilanden en Waarden Water Board [ZHEW] worked on a regional regulation in advance of this national legislation. ZHEW followed an approach of communication and partnering prior to implementing the national decree.

In order to discover whether agricultural activities do exert an adverse influence on the quality of surface water, a research programme was set up in 1995 in co-operation with the farmers. The research focused on the influence of the use of fertilizers and agrochemicals on the quality of surface waters. The farmers were informed, supported and motivated by, for example, information evenings, a monitoring programme, and advice and consultation between the farmers and the authorities.

In the year 2000 the national Decree on Discharges from Arable and Dairy Farming entered into force. This decree is concerned with preventing and restricting pollution of surface water by the emission, in particular, of pesticides and nutrients resulting from agricultural activities on open land and from dairy farming. It incorporates a number of measures aimed at cutting drift, the ultimate goal being to cut drift by 90%.

The most important result of the chosen approach is that compliance with one of the most important measures, the crop-free zone, is close to 100%. There has been little improvement in the amount of pesticides in the open waters, but there is no clear link between the regulation and water quality. Both water board and farmers are positive about the approach followed, based on partnering and communication.

Monitoring and evaluation proved to be essential when communicating with the agricultural sector. The results of attempts to influence behaviour must be recorded in order maintain the motivation to change behaviour. Information on the effects of the approach adopted to combating diffuse agricultural sources is gathered from a number of sources.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2002-01-01

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