Reducing pressures from agriculture is key to improving the status of Europe’s rivers, lakes, transitional, coastal waters and seas as well as groundwater bodies. A European Environment Agency (EEA) assessment and report "Water and agriculture; towards sustainable solutions", to which we contributed, shows that wider uptake of sustainable agricultural management practices is needed for improving the state of water, as well as biodiversity. Agricultural management practices should be based on agroecological principles, organic farming and nature-based solutions. To achieve this, more ambitious measures to promote sustainable agriculture are needed in the upcoming EU common agricultural policy 2021-2027.
Recent EEA studies have shown that many of Europe’s surface and groundwaters are not in good status and the state of Europe’s regional seas is alarming. Agricultural activities are an important source of pressures on Europe’s waters, due to nutrient and chemical pollution, water abstraction and physical changes in habitats, including through water storage and land drainage. Responding to these challenges is urgent, since climate change impacts in parts of Europe are exacerbating pressures on water and pose a risk to agricultural production.
Development of livestock production in Europe
The EEA assessment shows that a wide variety of management measures exist to tackle agricultural pressures on the water environment. While some progress has been made to reduce agricultural pressures in the 20th century, they remain at unsustainable levels with few signs of improvement over the past 10 years.
The EEA report points to three areas of improvement:
- Wider uptake of sustainable management practices based on agroecological principles, organic farming and nature- based solutions.
- Implementation and integration of EU policies.
- Achieving the reductions needed to reach water and other environmental targets requires a combined approach, changing both agricultural practices and consumer demands
The European Commission has put forward several initiatives under the European Green Deal to strengthen sustainability, including the biodiversity 2030, farm-to-fork and climate adaptation strategies, and the upcoming restoration directive, and zero pollution and balanced nutrient management action plans. If fully implemented and operationalised, the EEA assessment states, the ambitious new targets will support a more resilient and sustainable future.
Catalogue of measures drawn up under agreements