1. Abstract


EEA’s report “Water and agriculture: towards sustainable solutions” (EEA 2020a) provides a thematic assessment of agricultural practices in Europe and their implications for water resources. Central to this assessment was the description of four key pressures on water originating from agricultural activities: Pollution from nutrients; pollution from pesticides; water abstraction for irrigation; agricultural land use in the floodplain.

This paper describes the data, methodology and results of an analysis that shows variation of farming-related pressures exerted on freshwaters depending on agricultural landscape types. Adopting the present-day farming landscape typology of Levers et al. (2018) (who delineated different types of agricultural land use intensities), it derives 15 broad European agricultural regions (BEAR), specifies their pressure-profiles, and derives the composite multi-pressure index. The index includes the four aforementioned pressures, using datasets available with European coverage aggregated at the level of more than 30 000 river catchment units. Further analysis on linking agricultural production to the pressure index is given in the annex.

Key results

In total, 15 different BEARs were defined, which show different combinations and intensities of pressures on water from agriculture. The most abundant BEARs were ‘Extensive grassland and fallow farmland‘ (covering 25 % of catchments) and ‘Western intensive cropland‘ (covering 17 % of catchments).

The most intense composite multi-pressure indices were identified for the ‘Mediterranean intensive cropland’ located in parts of Spain, Italy and Greece (Figure 1). In this BEAR, most pressures, including pollution from pesticides, water abstraction for irrigation and agricultural land use in the floodplain are particularly high, whereas nitrogen surplus is lower. The regions with the lowest composite multi-pressure indices were ‘Northern and Highland livestock farming’ and ‘Extensive grassland area and fallow farmland’.

 Figure 1: Composite agricultural pressure index classifying the average intensity of multiple pressures from agriculture on water bodies in a catchment

Consultation questions

For this consultation we would like to ask you to comment on the approach and results:

  1. Do you think it is useful to establish a composite multi-pressure index of agriculture on water at pan-European scale?
  2. Do you think the methodology used is appropriate for this type of analysis (regarding BEAR delineation and definition of the composite multi-pressure index)?
  3. Can you agree with the results of the multiple pressure analysis in your country (in general, and in detail regarding specific areas)?
  4. How could such an analysis be subject to regular updates, and at which frequency?
  5. What further information could be included to support or improve the analysis?

comments (6)