Potential of drinking water alliances to address nitrate pollution: experiences from Germany

Scheumann, Waltina / Carmen Richerzhagen
Externe Publikationen (2022)

SOLAW21 Technical background report, Rome: FAO

ISBN: 978-92-5-136635-6
DOI: https://doi.org/10.4060/cc0952en
Open access

This paper provides background to the State of the World’s Land and Water Resources for Food and Agriculture Report, Edition 2021 (SOLAW 21) with an innovative governance approach to addressing non-point pollution sources originating from agricultural activities: alliances between water utilities and farmers in designated water protection areas and drinking water extraction areas. The alliances revolve around the idea of balancing diverging targets such as maintaining drinking water standards and the viability and profitability of agricultural businesses. While farmers can achieve high food production levels by using mineral and organic fertilizers and pesticides, these may have enormous side effects: nitrate and phosphate are transferred into surface and groundwater, impairing water quality and aquatic life. It may also result in the water no longer being usable as drinking water without special, costly treatment. These negative effects led to the establishment of voluntary alliances between water utilities and farmers (hereafter called ‘drinking water alliances’ or ‘alliances’) in the 1980s when the German government strengthened the threshold values for nitrate in drinking water from 90 mg/l to 50 mg/l. Water utilities, together with the regional (Laender) governments, initiated alliances with farmers to adopt fertilization and land management practices in order to protect drinking water resources from nitrate pollution.

Über die Autor*innen

Richerzhagen, Carmen

Agrar- und Umweltökonomin


Scheumann, Waltina



Weitere Expert*innen zu diesem Thema

Dombrowsky, Ines


Hornidge, Anna-Katharina

Entwicklungs- und Wissenssoziologie 

Schoderer, Mirja


Schüpf, Dennis