Controlling nitrate pollution: an integrated approach
O'Shea, L. C. M. and Wade, A. J. (2009) Controlling nitrate pollution: an integrated approach. Land Use Policy, 26 (3). pp. 799-808. ISSN 0264-8377
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2008.10.017
The introduction of the EU Water Framework Directive requires policy to address non-point source pollution as part of an overall integrated strategy to improve the ecological status of water bodies. In this paper, we combine an economic optimisation framework with a dynamic simulation model of N transport in the Kennet Catchment to link decisions taken at the farm level to reductions in nitrate concentrations in the River Kennet. We examine a variety of policies targeted at reducing fertiliser use and changing the way in which farm land is used. We find that a tax on nitrogen emerges as the best policy both in terms of cost- and environmental effectiveness. Such a policy involves a considerable reduction in fertiliser use, as well as, a restructuring of land-use away from arable towards increased use of set-aside. Budgetary implications of such a radical move towards set-aside would be huge and hence unlikely to be politically palatable given the objective of reducing the EU budgetary allocation to agriculture. Additionally, the current rise in world demand for food may also mitigate calls for increasing the proportion of land taken out of agricultural production. Although the study succeeds in establishing a link between actions on the farm and nitrate concentrations in the stream water, further work is required to explore the effect of the retention of nitrates in the unsaturated zone and groundwater on this link.