Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Implementing the water framework directive and tackling diffuse pollution from agriculture: Lessons from England and Scotland

De Vito, Laura; Fairbrother, Malcolm; Russel, Duncan


Profile Image

Dr Laura De Vito
Research Fellow in Air Quality Management Resource Centre

Malcolm Fairbrother

Duncan Russel*


Tackling diffuse pollution from agriculture is a key challenge for governments seeking to implement the European Union's Water Framework Directive (WFD). In the research literature, how best to integrate and align effective measures for tackling diffuse pollution, within the context of the EU's multilevel governance structure, remains an open question. This paper focuses on the first and second implementation cycles of the WFD to explore how national governance arrangements either facilitated or hindered the adoption of effective policies, especially with regards to the delivery of agricultural and water policies on the ground. It draws on data collected through systematic document analysis and interviews with key experts, policymakers and interest groups, and presents a comparative analysis of two case studies: England and Scotland. The case studies show that Scotland's joined-up governance structure, which enabled policymakers and interest groups to work together and to build trust and cooperation, facilitated the adoption of stricter measures for tackling diffuse pollution. In contrast, in England institutional fragmentation prevented a meaningful engagement of all parties and acted as a barrier. The analysis unpacks the design of policy mixes and the conditions that allow national governments to pursue more holistic and integrated governance approaches to overcome opposition from interest groups and gain their support.


De Vito, L., Fairbrother, M., & Russel, D. (2020). Implementing the water framework directive and tackling diffuse pollution from agriculture: Lessons from England and Scotland. Water, 12(1),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 7, 2020
Online Publication Date Jan 15, 2020
Publication Date Jan 15, 2020
Deposit Date Jan 15, 2020
Publicly Available Date Jan 16, 2020
Journal Water (Switzerland)
Electronic ISSN 2073-4441
Publisher MDPI
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 12
Issue 1
Article Number 244
Keywords public policy; governance; WFD; Scotland; England
Public URL


Implementing the Water Framework Directive and Tackling Diffuse Pollution from Agriculture: Lessons from England and Scotland (489 Kb)


Publisher Licence URL

Copyright Statement
© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (

You might also like

Downloadable Citations