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Farmers' Perceptions Of Scotland's Diffuse Water Pollution Regulations In The Eye Water And Pease Bay Priority Catchment

Congress: 2015
Author(s): Kimberly McLeod (Geneva, Switzerland)

Keyword(s): Sub-theme 15: Water law,

Introduction: Water is essential to sustain life although poor water quality negatively impacts the ecosystem, human health and the economy. For years point-source polluters were targeted to reduce their effluent however now it is recognized that non-point or diffuse pollution is more of a concern. It is thought that larger polluters masked diffuse pollution making it a challenge to control because regulations cannot easily monitor nor place certain blame on the polluter. Even though these contaminants maybe less damaging than point source pollution in terms of concentration, the combination of different substances is worrisome. This research explores the implementation of agricultural diffuse pollution regulations ten years after the WEWS Act, an act given to protect the water environment in Scotland. The research highlights the environmental and socio-political issues of controlling diffuse pollution. The first aim attempts to understand farmer perceptions of diffuse pollution and the regulations imposed. The second aim is to understand the participation between farmers and the regulatory body in mitigating diffuse pollution. There are several objectives that deliver these aims; gathering information on the concern of agricultural diffuse pollution in Scotland across various stakeholders and exploring the policy instruments for diffuse pollution mitigation in Scotland and around the world. Also, exploring farmer perceptions on diffuse pollution regulations and their participation in mitigating diffuse pollution, gathering information on how Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) participates with stakeholders, and finally assessing the effectiveness of diffuse pollution regulations through the perception of stakeholders. Methods: The research presented in this paper includes an interdisciplinary approach by combining a literature review and semi-structured interviews. The literature review explains the impacts of diffuse pollution from agriculture, Scotland's regulations authorized for its control, and stakeholders' perceptions. It showcases numerous journals and policy reports explaining the necessity to mitigate diffuse pollution and the limitations regulatory science can impose. In addition, socio-political issues are addressed throughout to expose its importance of implementing integrated water resource management. A case-study was used to gather perspectives of a priority catchment already proceeding with implementing diffuse pollution regulations. Eye Water and Pease Bay Catchment area was used to conduct semi-structured interviews to gain this insight. In addition, governmental and environmental experts were interviewed to balance the discussion. Results and Discussion: Semi-structured interviews were analyzed using inductive reasoning to identify themes within the transcripts and then categorized by means of theoretical coding. The emergent themes were then considered on the concepts written in the literature review following a grounded theory approach. The field findings show that farmers have a good understanding of what diffuse pollution is and where it originates. However, some farmers do not fully recognize the negative impacts of their activities reasoning that they have good farming techniques. Moreover, other studies found farmers un-persuaded of the severity of diffuse pollution and that they are substantially contributing to its impact. When asked to farmers if they trust or believe the scientific information given many said that they must because one cannot dispute if there are faecal bacteria in the water. Although they have doubts and are skeptical because many other variables such as weather and the watercourse hydrology can cause diffuse pollution to have a greater impact. Researchers have shown that farmers and stakeholders lack trust in governmental officials. The field results show that majority of farmers interviewed shared negative expressions of SEPA such as: the enemy, badly, not very well, weary, an imposition. The reasons behind included not liking regulations since they are an obstruction of their business, or are suspicious of SEPA's activities, or that they are holding onto past impressions of SEPA. Despite these negative expressions, most of these comments were over-shadowed with explanations that they are now speaking because they earned respectable recognition for completing mitigation. This is a result of increased effective collaboration, educated personnel, and a more advisory approach towards controlling diffuse pollution. A finding that is concerning is the inequality of farmers not complying with regulations. Farmers are upset and frustrated that they have paid for mitigation while others have been able to get away by doing nothing. No reasons were discovered as to if or why these farmers are not contributing to the efforts, although it can be analyzed from the interviewee's comments that there is a lack of acceptance to the problem and there are historically negative perceptions towards SEPA. However, even if there are good reasons as to why, farmers and other stakeholders need to be assured that everyone is contributing. Conclusion: Referring back to the research aims, farmers' perception of diffuse pollution is well understood of where it originates. However, understanding the negative impacts is insufficient in its importance notwithstanding to the literature explaining the impacts towards ecosystems, human health and financial contributions made by water users. This perception is possibly due to the lack of trust in SEPA and scientific information regarding the success of mitigation techniques and water quality parameters. The second aim of this research is to understand the participation between farmers and the regulatory body in mitigating diffuse pollution. In analyzing the literature review and interviews it is acknowledged that SEPA and farmers are improving their participation with one another in the past 10 years. Specifically, the type of characteristics the regulatory personnel has is principal in influencing behavior change. While this catchment has seen an improvement in cooperation, the inequalities addressed are concerning. The current improvements between farmers and stakeholders could be lost if these inequalities are not addressed. Tackling diffuse pollution requires a holistic approach where everyone in the watershed contributes towards reducing his or her runoff in order to sustain a healthy water quality for future generations. 1. Barnes, A. P., Willock, J., Hall, C., & Toma, L. (2009) Farmer perspectives and practices regarding water pollution control programmes in Scotland. 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