Table of Contents

Research Handbook on EU Agriculture Law

Research Handbook on EU Agriculture Law

Research Handbooks in European Law series

Edited by Joseph A. McMahon and Michael N. Cardwell

Following the conclusion of the latest round of reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in 2013, the Research Handbook on EU Agriculture Law provides an up-to-date discussion of these reforms and the changing landscape in which the CAP now operates.

Chapter 10: Agriculture and water pollution

Brian Jack

Subjects: development studies, agricultural economics, law - academic, environmental law, european law


This chapter provides a brief overview of agriculture’s impact upon water quality. Its principal objective, however, is to examine the legal framework that has evolved to protect water resources. In doing so, the chapter examines the role of national and European environmental laws and also the role that the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) plays in both supporting European environmental law and in promoting farm management measures that protect water quality. The chapter concludes by exploring the developing concept of ecosystem services. The chapter contrasts the command and control style evident within both European environmental law and CAP cross-compliance mechanisms with the voluntary measures available within CAP rural development policy. The new ‘greening component’ of the European Union (EU) sits somewhere between both approaches. Alongside these provisions, recognition of the importance of ecosystem services also provides scope for a new dimension to develop, effectively privatizing land management controls. Ultimately, it will be clear that a broad range of approaches have been adopted to tackle water pollution from agricultural sources. In turn, this raises a question mark over the level of policy coherence that has been achieved both between individual measures and also between the range of public and private ‘regulators’ now active in this area.

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