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Protecting Water from Agricultural Diffuse Pollutions: Between Action Territories and Hydrogeological Demarcation

Abstract

The contamination of water resources by non-point pollution of agricultural origin, primarily nitrates and pesticides, has become a major issue in water policies. In France, the national consultation of the Grenelle of the Environment in 2007 led to project approaches, aimed at protecting Water Catchment Areas (WCA). Based on the implementation of preventive management, WCA projects aim at negotiating changes in farming practices in these zones, including conversion to organic farming. But difficulties occur in creating links between WCA and organic farming in these projects. Beyond the conflicts between different stakeholders often put forward, we suggest adopting a geographical approach on the interactions between WCA and the action territories of three types of stakeholders. A combination of statistical, GIS-processing and comprehensive methods was used to study the cross-referencing between WCA, defined according to hydrogeological bases, and action territories of farmers, collection companies and local authorities. The results show how the demarcation of the water catchment areas on biophysical bases struggles to be effective for action, in particular for the agricultural question and the development of organic farming. In taking account of organisational levels and spatial patterns, the article illustrates the discrepancy between WCA and action territories of farmers, collectors and local authorities. These results call for better integration of the concept of territory project in WCA projects, allowing interests to be combined and reflection to be directed towards local governance in the field of water quality.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Analysis report of the Inter-Ministerial Committee for the Modernisation of Public Action, Evaluation of the water policy, June 2013, http://www.developpement-durable.gouv.fr/IMG/008843-01_rapport-2.pdf.

  2. 2.

    For example in law n° 2009–967 of 3 August 2009 about programming relative to the implementation of the Grenelle of the Environment, the so-called «Grenelle Law 1 »

  3. 3.

    The LRG, implemented in France since 2002 in conformity with EU regulations (n° 1593/2000), is a system of geographical information enabling agricultural plots to be identified. This system is used to manage European aid to the land. Since 2007, an anonymous version of LRG associated with some of the data declared by farmers (including land use) is available. The data are agglomerated to the island, given that a « cultural island is composed of a collection of crop fields worked by the same farmer, defined between long-lasting limits (road, water course, hedge, unused plot of land on the land register, island worked by another farmer, etc...) ». Commission for the validation of data for spatialised information - standard of data COVADISVersion 1 18 November 2009.

  4. 4.

    In conformity with the law of 27 June 1972 relating to farming cooperative companies, their unions and their federations, to companies of collective interest and to mixed companies of agricultural interest.

  5. 5.

    Given that a farmer is defined as being « affected » when the centroid of one of this farmer’s islands is in the WCA.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to sincerely thank all those we have surveyed, including farmers, operators in the Agri-food systems and stakeholders in water, public authorities, and agricultural organizations. We thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on the manuscript. We also kindly acknowledge Jane Curtis for the English editing.

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Correspondence to Caroline Petit.

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This work was supported by the INRA-AgriBio3 Program and by the Water Agencies “Rhône-Méditerranée-Corse” and “Seine-Normandie”.

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Petit, C., Vincent, A., Fleury, P. et al. Protecting Water from Agricultural Diffuse Pollutions: Between Action Territories and Hydrogeological Demarcation. Water Resour Manage 30, 295–313 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11269-015-1162-0

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Keywords

  • Water policies
  • Water catchment area
  • Agriculture
  • Organic farming
  • Action territory
  • Project territory