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Agricultural Groundwater Protection through Groundwater Co-operations in Lower Saxony, Germany, – a multi stakeholder task

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Despite the fact that German agriculture is embedded in an intricate structure of regulative law for the protection of the environment, in the 1980s, groundwater in some areas still contained high nitrate concentrations and revealed a lack of law enforcement. This especially held true for a federal state like Lower Saxony where more than two third of agricultural value added comes from animal production, and liquid manure application on the field is a considerable source for groundwater pollution. As a response and supplementary to regulative law, the “Co-operation Decree” (“Kooperationserlass”) as a basis for the so-called “Lower Saxon Co-operation Model” was issued. Its objective was to initiate the formation of locally adapted and goal orientated initiatives (socalled “groundwater co-operations”) among farmers, water suppliers and local administrations in order to find solutions which satisfy both, the protection of groundwater, as well as the profitability of agriculture. Since traditional forms of professional organisation in agricultural and environmental protection interest groups were transcended, stakeholders had to negotiate “face-to-face” and, for the case of farmers, had to find new forms of organisation within these groundwater co-operations. Furthermore, a sound moderation in the beginning of the co-operations' work was necessary. This brought private entities, engineering consultancies, in who, based on their technical expertise, at first mediated among conflicting parties, to then facilitate the joint development of groundwater protecting measures to be realised by farmers. The Co-operation Model's “water extraction fee” further guarantees financial compensation of farmers in cases of yield losses caused by measure implementation. After an at times difficult start, work in groundwater co-operations up until now shows that through opening up and cooperating with other stakeholders, agriculture can considerably develop and improve itself, and at the same time respond to emerging new societal demands. A case will exemplify that farmers made use of the co-operation in the course of time and extended it to other areas of their concern in order to improve their agricultural business. Furthermore, according to the so-called “Lower Saxon Co-operation Model”, agriculture is not just a producer of a maximum of yield. The protection of drinking water resources is seen as a further societal interest which can be realised through groundwater protecting measures developed in local co-operations. This approach was further developed with the granting of the project H2Ö. Here, a change to groundwater protecting agriculture is not “compensated” through subsidies, but H2Ö tries to integrate organic agriculture, as one form of groundwater protecting agriculture, in a market structure, as well as it tries to support the development of this structure. At the same time, with a reform of the Co-operation Model, the financial autonomy of groundwater co-operations and their responsibility for the realisation of measures will increase. It remains to be seen how this new responsibility of cooperations may reinforce identification and creativity on the part of farmers to further develop groundwater protecting agriculture.
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cirad-00190911 , version 1 (23-11-2007)


  • HAL Id : cirad-00190911 , version 1


B. Bluemling, M. Horstkoetter. Agricultural Groundwater Protection through Groundwater Co-operations in Lower Saxony, Germany, – a multi stakeholder task. L'avenir de l'agriculture irriguée en Méditerranée. Nouveaux arrangements institutionnels pour une gestion de la demande en eau, 2006, Cahors, France. ⟨cirad-00190911⟩
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