The James Hutton Institute/Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences Group1
1. Introduction Diffuse pollution affects the capacity of water systems to provide ecosystem services and diminishes the resilience of socio-ecological systems (Paterson et al. 2013). Managing diffuse pollution in catchments is therefore important not just for water quality and water security, but also for building systems' capacity to adapt to change (Walker et al., 2004). Significant efforts and resources have been and continue to be deployed into the mitigation of rural diffuse pollution through regulatory, guidance and voluntary measures. Despite these efforts, rural diffuse pollution remains a persistent challenge for water resources management in developed and developing countries (UN-Water, 2011; OECD, 2012). The failure to produce more significant results is to be attributed to the complexity or 'wickedness' of the problem (von Korff et al., 2012; Patterson et al., 2013; Duckett et al. forthcoming). For this reason, knowledge on how to technically improve the effectiveness of strategies to mitigate diffuse pollution should be accompanied by an understanding of the factors that affect the implementation, uptake and perceptions of measures by land managers and other stakeholders. From an institutional and behavioural perspective, this paper brings together the existing evidence, with the aim of identifying and articulating a coherent and unified set of policy messages and of identifying key knowledge gaps that the social science research agenda should focus on in the future. We do so by drawing on the example of Scotland as it provides an interesting case for its institutional configuration and its strategy to mitigate diffuse pollution. Through its Rural Diffuse Pollution Plan, Scotland has moved in the last few years from a traditional normative approach to a flexible strategy that better reflects the tackling needs of 'wicked' problems (Duckett et al. forthcoming). 2. Methods We undertook a systematic review of about ten years of research (34 research projects) on rural diffuse pollution in Scotland, using outputs of the grey and peer reviewed literature. We tabulated the data in a database and analysed in a step-wise procedure. Firstly, data were categorised according to the three research questions (i.e. barriers and opportunities to implementation, factors influencing uptake and stakeholders' perceptions). Secondly, a qualitative, thematic analysis drawing on elements of Grounded Theory (Corbin and Strauss, 2008; Glaser and Strauss, 1967) was conducted for each of the categories. Thirdly, key themes were further analysed to produce subthemes, explore associations and elaborate a coherent and unified set of key policy messages. 3. Results (1) Barriers and opportunities for improving implementation of measures * Financial aspects are a critical barrier for implementing water quality measures but it is not all about money. Access to funds and condition of funding, complexity and paper work, time and labour are important * Cultural and social barriers are also important, for example, resistance to change, differing world views from different stakeholders, lack of perception of the source of problem, etc. * Farmer-to-farmer communication and community engagement is important to promote cultural changes. * Lack of scientific evidence on the effectiveness of measures, time lags and scepticism is also a major problem. Demonstration farms can be useful to help mitigating this. * There is a clear need for advice, which should be easy to access, systematic and preferably one-to-one. Focus farms can help with this. * Consistency across regulations and throughout time is very important. * Support for initiatives needs to be promoted/facilitated by locally trusted facilitators and organisations (2) Behaviours influencing uptake of measures * Farmer's behaviour and attitudes towards uptake is clearly conditioned by their business and profitability focus (e.g. incentives, transaction costs, productions loss). Other important factors are: complexity in access funding and paperwork; time and labour farm and business characteristics * Farmers do not always see themselves as responsible for environmental problems (although there is a feeling that awareness is raising). * Cultural aspects (resistance to change) and personal characteristics (age, skills) condition land manager's levels of awareness and proactivity. * Existing social networks, locally trusted agents/ partnerships and farmer-to-farmer communication favour uptake. * Farmers are often exposed to mixed messages and inconsistencies across regulations and through time. This generates scepticism and lower proactivity. * Underlying negative perceptions do not necessarily mean less action (for example, 'resistant' stakeholders can show proactive advice seeking can end up in more adoption of voluntary measures). (3) Stakeholder's perceptions of measures * The appropriate scale for understanding perceptions of specific measures is the local level (sub-catchment or catchment scale) * Measures most regarded as cost-effective for improving water quality are (in this order): water margins for diffuse pollution, retention of winter stubbles, livestock tracks and gates and management of wetlands. * A perception exists that the regional approach to Nitrogen Vulnerable Zone has led to a feeling of victimization and unfairness among farmers. * Awareness about subsidized interventions is not widespread. The Scottish Rural Development Plan is seen as promising and with potential to deliver multiple benefits but there is a feeling that measures implemented as part of the Plan have not delivered much yet (emerging scepticism). * There is a general perception that further evidence, advice, aftercare and monitoring, and awareness raising is needed. * Moving towards output-based approaches might enhance the potential of measures to improve water quality and deliver multiple benefits 4. Conclusion Our review of the existing evidence reveals that much is already known about why implementation and uptake of measures to mitigate diffuse pollution does not happen to the extent that would be desired. Financial aspects (including also access to fund and associated complexity), cultural aspects, inconsistency in regulations and lack of scientific evidence are common barriers. The results also suggest that many of the barriers are of a behavioural nature, and that, therefore, targeted advice, awareness raising, increased evidence and trusted network development can play a key role in overcoming the challenges. Most interestingly, however, is that our analysis reveals that the key knowledge gap is no longer on why implementation does not happen but on how to make it happen. The research agenda should focus, for instance, on: how can consistency across regulation and overtime be increased to prevent mixed messages and scepticisms?; how can the effect of lack of scientific knowledge and uncertainty on uptake of measure be reduced?; or how 1. Duckett, D., Feliciano, D., Martin-Ortega, J., Munoz-Rojas, J. (forthcoming). Tackling wicked environmental problems: The discourse and its influence on practice. Landscape and Urban Planning. 2. OECD Publishing (2012). 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