Costs of compliance

TractorSuccessful implementation of the adaptive management strategies at the catchment scale requires the willingness of relevant stakeholders to adopt the measures proposed. A principal barrier to implementation is cost. There are two main aspects, first, the proportionality or disproportionality of compliance costs in relation to statutory European policy obligations under the HD and the WFD and second the specific costs of the alternative measures that might be introduced to achieve compliance.

Cost-effectiveness Analysis (CEA) has emerged as the preferred method for assessing the best means for water users. Preferred measures are those that generate wider benefits in terms of their impact on other ecosystem goods and services, such as the benefits of tree planting not only for riparian zone shading to cool streams but also to sequester carbon. Most established methods for assessing cost-effectiveness of water quality enhancement strategies fail to acknowledge fully the implications of the highly varied nature of land management systems and land manager behaviours, even at sub-catchment scale. Cost-effectiveness studies of nutrient mitigation measures based on stylised or typical farm types do not take into account the inherent variability among farms caused by differences in farm size, land quality, spatial location, production techniques employed or managerial abilities.

In REFRESH we will identify the most cost-effective ways of mitigating the adverse impacts of climate change and the impacts of these on achieving good ecological status under the WFD or the favourable status of HD sites. This will be achieved by coupling the ecological outcomes and economic outcomes. In-depth stakeholder dialogue and farm and sub-catchment modelling will identify  the optimum combination of measures that need to be implemented at aggregate catchment scales to achieve WFD and HD compliance in the face of climate change.

We will translate modelled bio-physical findings into a consistent Europe-wide applicable methodology to enable the assessment of the cost-effectiveness of land management and water user compliance strategies in relation to the WFD and HD and to assess whether or not the proportionality criterion is met. It builds on the stakeholder engagement processes and deepens the collaborative engagement established in the early part of the Project in selected catchments. 

Profiling the demonstration catchments 

The regulatory and property rights regimes will be profiled at six of the demonstration catchments which comprise the main loci for integrated modelling in REFRESH (identified to represent the major climatic regions of Europe and the mix of land-use and other pressures on water and wetland quality - Dee and Thames/Kennet, UK; Louros, Greece; Lake Pyhäjärvi/River Yläneenjoki, Finland; Vansjö-Høbolelva, Norway; Vltava, Czech Republic). The range of compliance threats to water and wetland quality arising from various sources, but exacerbated by climate change, will be explored and. A matrix of impacts of different water and land-uses on the selected demonstration catchments as a whole will be explored and major areas of non-compliance with directives identified.

[Link to Demonstration Catchments (to follow)]

Sub-catchment identification 

Compliance challenges will differ greatly within catchments depending, among other things, on land management practices and intensities, water uses, settlement patterns and discharge into water bodies. We will screen the selected demonstration catchments to identify sub-catchments which reflect effectively the range of conditions within the catchment. Up to five sub-catchments per demonstration catchment will be identified for detailed investigation. The socio-economic evidence base on the economics of different land-uses and water uses within these catchments will be identified along with and the specific factors which compromise achievement of good ecological status and favourable site condition.

Examining the solutions

Before and after fencingThis task will investigate the possible mitigating adaptive and restoration options collaboratively with local stakeholders which might enable compliance with WFD and HD obligations to be achieved. It will draw on the results of the work on rivers, lakes and wetlands as well as on national level studies and examples of research in similar catchments to identify potentially relevant means to deliver compliance with Directives. A review of the full range of broadly feasible land and water management adjustment strategies will be undertaken. Through collaborative workshops, we will feed the findings from the intensive bio-physical sciences investigations and the outputs of the catchment modelling to local stakeholders with a view to constructing possible adaptive solutions. The principal potential remediating strategies to deliver compliance will be identified for each sub-catchment and any published evidence on costs of compliance review.

Right: Reducing diffuse pollution by fencing to restrict direct access of cattle to streams.

Source: The Macaulay Land Use Research Institute.

Estimating the compliance costs 

REFRESH will undertake cost effectiveness analyses (CEA) of the competing remediating strategies at both land management unit and sub-catchment scales in relation to compliance with obligations under the WFD and HD. It will build on best-practice models of CEA undertaken in member states to respond to obligations under the WFD.

The central question will be the extent to which cost-effective solutions to compliance with WFD and HD can be designed for the different sub-catchments which reflect the range of land management activities and the range of styles of management of these areas. The proportionality/disproportionality of the compliance costs will be identified for the different types of land management unit or water user to enable identification of where cost-effective solutions can be found both in geographical terms and in relation to specific land and water users. In every sub-catchment of the selected demonstration catchments, the short-list of land and water management options that might deliver compliance with WFD/HD requirements will be identified. Where available, standard enterprise costs will be used (and appropriately adjusted) as the basis for estimating the costs of compliance of the different options, using the underlying principle of opportunity cost. Where standard costs are not available, and to corroborate standard cost approaches, parallel estimation techniques will be developed by means of interviews with land and water users and managers.

Attention will be paid to the behaviour of different land and water managers within the same catchment (in relation to type of crop grown, management strategies, boundary management with respect to water courses, emissions from sewage treatment works, presence and effective use of septic tanks, riparian vegetation etc.) with a view to identifying the extent to which particular practices or intensities of practice result in either compromising or helping to meet compliance thresholds with respect to water quality.

Flagging the wider benefits to ecosystem services

Many interventions to ensure cost-effective compliance with policy requirements may also generate wider benefits in terms of their impact on other ecosystem goods and services.  For example, tree planting in buffer strips or shading of watercourses by tree planting may enhance biodiversity, enhance landscapes and sequester carbon. These wider benefits should be acknowledged in any holistic analysis of interventions to maintain water or protected area qualities to support sustainable and multifunctional management of European water catchments under a range of socio-economic, land management and climatic conditions. We will undertake catchment scale workshops with a wide range of stakeholders to identify these wider benefits.