Factsheet #2

Blue Services

Instrument Type


Governance Level


Governance Mode


Water management topics addressed

Drought & water scarcity
Water abstraction for irrigation and other economic activities
Water quality issues due to nutrient pollution
Water quality issues: Other reasons

Implementation requirements

Financial capacity


Human capacity


Political buy-in


Timeframe for implementation


#2: Blue Services


Blue Services are water-related services or management roles with a positive impact on the water system, conducted by farmers and horticulturalists that do ecologically more than legally required. As a reward these volunteers receive market-level compensation.


Blue Services consist of voluntary activities that exceed the statutory minimum, undertaken by private landowners and land users. The services are directed at realizing societal needs or societal goals in the field of nature, landscape, and shared recreational use. Blue services provide a contribution towards healthy and robust water systems and can be viewed as a tool for meeting major water challenges. They concern services such as water conservation, water storage, good-quality water supply, reinforcement of the water-related landscape and wastewater treatment. Their aim is to create incentives for landowners to do more than is legally required of them regarding nature, landscape, water management and shared recreational use of land. For this they receive market-level compensation.

Example: Blue services in Flemish agriculture and horticulture

In Flanders, Belgium, agriculture plays a big role in steering water policy through existing agri-environmental commitments and cross-compliance. Most measures intend to reduce nutrients, pesticides and sediment in surface and groundwater. The extent farmers are compensated for respective measures is determined mainly based on loss of production or income or cost of execution. Different services turned out to provide a great potential to reduce agricultural pressures on water resources. These include a reduced use of fertilizers or plant protection products, the protection of watercourses from direct contact with animals, active level control, restructuring and management of watercourses, the building and maintenance of nature-friendly banks, conversion to organic agriculture, conversion from arable land to grassland, the construction of water storage basins as well as the construction of water purification swamps.


Danckaert S., Carels K. (2009). Blue services in Flemish agriculture and horticulture
https://lv.vlaanderen.be/nl/voorlichting-info/publicaties/studies/report-summaries/blue-services-flemish-agriculture-and Retrieved on 22 September 2020.

OECD (2014) Water Governance in the Netherlands: fit for the future? OECD Studies on Water (pp. 94ff., 115ff.) https://www.oecd.org/governance/water-governance-in-the-netherlands-9789264102637-en.htm Retrieved on 22 September 2020.

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