Die Bodenkultur - Journal for Land Management, Food and Environment

F. Feichtinger, P. Strauss, J.-M. Lescot, M. Kaljonen, G. Hofmacher:

Integrated assessment of groundwater protection using Agricultural Best Management Practices – a nitrogen case studya


An integrated study was carried out in a small Austrian watershed to assess the environmental, economic and acceptability aspects of implementing certain Best Management Practices (BMPs) for nitrogen management. The environmental impact on groundwater pollution by nitrogen was assessed for various BMPs funded by the Austrian programme for environmentally sustainable agriculture (ÖPUL), by calculating both the amount of leakage and its nitrate concentration using hydrological modelling. Costs associated with the implementation of the different BMPs were assessed using economic modelling. The assessment of the levels of acceptance for each BMP was based on a survey methodology.
The study identified a clear hierarchy of BMPs in terms of their environmental effectiveness and associated costs. For the case area studied, the chosen BMPs currently financed by agri-environmental schemes were not able to reduce pollution below the legal standards. Relatively large areas of BMP application were necessary to influence nitrate pollution significantly. This calls into question the necessity of critical area identification for the prevention of nitrogen pollution, which is in contrast to results obtained for other pollutants such as phosphorus. The acceptability assessment revealed that farmers expect a rather high level of compensation for the expenses incurred by the agri-environmental practices.

Key words:  Nitrate, groundwater pollution, agri-environmental policy, best management practice, environmental effectiveness, costs, social acceptability.