How is organic farming supporting sustainable water management?
Sustainable water management is a fundamental part of organic production from the use of agronomic practices such as crop rotations, green manures, catch and cover crops - shown to reduce nutrient leaching and run-off into water bodies - to not using synthetic pesticides and fertilisers - which result in huge environmental cost as a consequence of water pollution from intensive agriculture. Moreover a strong emphasis on soil structure and increased humus makes organic production well placed to enhance water-holding capacity and makes it more resilient to extreme climate events such as heavy rainfall and droughts.
What are the key policy tools and instruments on water organic farming can support?
Organic farming practices are well placed to support the implementation of key EU laws designed to protect and enhance water bodies. This includes the:
- Nitrates Directive (1991) which aims to prevent nitrates from agriculture sources polluting ground and surface waters through the promotion of good farming practices
- Water Framework Directive (2000) which aims to ensure 'good status' for all EU ground and surface waters
- Sustainable Pesticide Use Directive (2009) which aims reduce the risks and impacts of pesticide use on people's health and the environment
- Common Agricultural Policy (2014-2020) - aims to support the long-term viability of farming and rural areas. It has the potential to advance sustainable solutions for environmentally friendly agriculture and high quality food production.
Are EU policy tools and instruments supporting better water management in practice?Ensuring the good ecological status of surface waters and the sufficient availability of clean water remains a challenge in many EU Member States, despite policy efforts. A 2014 report by the European Court of Auditors entitled - The Integration of EU water policy objectives with the CAP: a partial success - found not only significant delays in implementation in many Member States, but also that improvements in sustainable water management across the Union are insufficient to reach the overall goals and objectives related to agriculture set out in the Water Framework Directive. Similarly the process regarding the implementation of the national actions plans under the Sustainable Pesticide Use Directive has yet to demonstrate clear and ambitious goals and objectives to confront the adverse effective of chemicals in food and farming on human health and environment.
The sustainability credentials of organic farming in water management demonstrate that organics can be part of the solution.