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Policy Evaluation Report | Get Homework Help

Agricultural Runoff Policy

Analysis, projection, and monitoring are critical prerequisites in the management of marine ecosystems and the alleviation of detrimental impacts on them. The design of cost-effective strategies that address agricultural runoff and its mitigation risks requires that managers, policymakers, and planners comprehend the condition of aquatic ecosystems, the state and dynamics of the interactions that contribute to water quality degradation, as well as the implications of such degradation on the environment and human health. Recent assessments acknowledge that consolidation of approaches comprising of economic incentives, information and regulations works more efficiently as opposed to the sole application of regulations (Mateo-Sagasta, Zadeh and Turral 2017). Incorporating new land uses and management practices is key to minimizing runoff. A land’s ecology is influenced by specific factors comprising of its geology, vegetation, hydrology, macro- and microorganisms, and topography. The shifts in these factors due to climatic, individuals’ activities and gravity interactions influence the alteration of the land’s ecology. Prevention of agricultural runoff and the sustenance of relative ecological stability of the land necessitate the continuous presence of vegetation cover and incorporation of farming practices that utilize minimal synthetic fertilizers. A decrease in vegetation cover or a reduction of organic activity will lessen the continual restoration of topsoil layers.

Recently, concerns regarding the intensifying levels of pesticides in the GBR have arisen. Nevertheless, this concern is not only confined to GBR but other reefs around the globe. Over the years, GBR has implemented several land-based management practices, though; they have not comprehensively addressed the issue of agricultural runoff (Kroon and Schaffelke 2016). Therefore, current efforts are targeting to modify several land-use systems. The replacement of crops such as sugarcane that require high proportions of fertilizers with those that require fewer amounts, including cereals and grains, is a potential approach. Alternatively, sugarcane farming may continue though sustainable farming practices constituting the shifting sugarcane pesticide management practices, must be integrated. Initiatives such as the Game Changer, managed by the Australian Government’s Reef Programme, endorses sustainable farming practices that benefit the farmers and the reef, by minimizing the proportions of nitrogen and residual pesticides leaving sugarcane farms as runoff (Australian government Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment 2020). The project targets water catchment areas that extend from Cairns in the Northern parts to Sarina, situated in the Southern parts. Sites with poor soils that yield low output, utilize fewer quantities of nitrogen. Contrastingly, areas with better soils and higher yield outputs can use more nitrogen since the larger yield allows for full utilization of fertilizers.

Environmental Externality and The Chosen Policy

The increasing food demand has prompted the agricultural sector to shift to mass production accompanied by the utilization of agrochemicals such as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Consequently, these chemical residues contaminate the ecology through surface runoff (Ho, Lim and Lim 2020). Agricultural runoff originates from numerous diffuse sources. It is classified as a Non-point source (NPS) pollution since the potential contaminants originate from multiple sources, and the precise entry point into watersheds cannot be accurately defined (Daniels, Sharpley, Harmel and Anderson 2018). Surface runoff from irrigation, rainfall and snowmelt, displaces both human-made and natural pollutants and deposits them into water bodies such as lakes, rivers, and oceans. Therefore, managing the flow rates of irrigation, snowmelt and rainfall is integral to control pollution resulting from agricultural runoff. Agricultural activities that contribute to surface runoff include excessive plowing, poorly timed application of pesticides, and overgrazing. Herbicides released into water runoff threaten the marine ecology by devastating macro-algae, corals and seaweeds. Further, bioaccumulation processes are likely to occur since aquatic species tend to consume the pesticides released through runoff. Agricultural runoff impairs water quality due to high pesticide toxicities in addition to increasing the quantity of stream discharge. Dam siltation resulting from the mobilization of sediments impairs other agricultural activities as it degrades water quality. It destroys wetlands and contaminates groundwater and surveyed estuaries. Moreover, it may contain phosphorus and nitrogen, synthetic fertilizers, and manure that could deplete oxygen in watersheds, mainly if deposited in large quantities (Moore and Locke 2020). Water pollution resulting from agricultural practices has direct negative implications on human health. To illustrate, the blue-baby syndrome where there is high nitrate content in water can cause methemoglobinemia, which is fatal to infants. Pesticide buildup within the food chain is connected with detrimental effects on human beings. Fertilizers that contain organophosphates may cause chronic health effects.

GBR continues to undergo pollution from the excessive accumulation of sediments, pesticides, and herbicides that are deposited from the nearby lands to the reef’s lagoon. The sediments decrease the availability of sunlight that is necessary for the growth of seaweeds and corals. Agricultural runoff is associated with anthropogenic nutrient accumulation in the coastal water of GBR. Large scale eutrophication has been termed as a potential ecological risk to the GBR as it poses a risk to fisheries and biodiversity. The dissolved nitrogen compounds from fertilizers contribute to eutrophication of coral reefs, while high quantities of agricultural runoff encourage algae growth and can disrupt the ecological balance of the inshore reefs. Crown-of-thorns starfish consume nutrients such as nitrogen. Appropriate conditions favor their proliferation, which in turn, results in the destruction of the coral population.

Environmental Externalities and Possible Solutions/Recommendations

Agriculture is linked directly to water systems. Integrating better land management practices is a crucial factor in agricultural intensification. Land management programs have been essential in enhancing soil conservation and reducing leaching. Nonetheless, these approaches have failed to handle the runoff issue. Synthetic fertilizers have consistently been utilized since the 19th century to supplement organic nutrient sources; however, their use has increased drastically in current years. The worldwide use of fertilizers is currently ten times more than the amount that was used in the 1960s. Reports substantiate that the fertilizer utilization has surpassed thresholds that could cause abrupt ecological shifts. Significant disparities exist between locations that incorporate high fertilizer applications and those that do not. The management of agricultural runoff is complicated because it is difficult to trace its numerous sources. Policies addressing water pollution and agriculture should be included in an overarching policy framework that considers the pollutants and their consequences. The appropriate criterion for landscape stability is achieved by relative equilibrium whereby there is minimum erosion and runoff. This can be achieved through the planting of diverse combinations of trees and crops alongside buffers. Tree roots can be cut down to act as buffer zones and planted between trees and crops to aid in preventing erosion and surface runoff. Risk neutrality implies that the decision-maker is unconcerned between two probability distributions with similar mean values (Pearce, Atkinson and Mourato 2006). The Australian government can integrate the risk neutrality concept by sampling farmers within the region to integrate the most effective approach.

Assessment of costs and benefits of the environmental problems

The sustenance of land management practices that were utilized in the reef imply that the costs incurred will not significantly change. Nevertheless, there will be no improvements whatsoever. Multiple farmers within the nearby catchment areas engage in sugarcane farming; however, sugarcane farming is associated with increased agricultural runoff. The proposition to introduce new crops such as cereals or grains is likely to reduce the impact of agricultural runoff substantially. Growing cereals and grains is less expensive compared to growing sugarcane. However, the costs of campaigning for new crops in the entire area will be costly because farmers will require training, purchase of seeds, clearing of land, and perhaps purchasing new equipment. The cumulative charges will be approximately 70% than if the previous land management practices were retained. The benefits, however, will be worthwhile as there will be an estimated 40-60 % decrease in agricultural runoff. Hence aquatic systems will also experience reduced contamination and an increase in biodiversity. Whereas high costs will be incurred in the shift from conventional sugarcane farming to other crops, significant benefits in the restoration of aquatic systems will be perceived. Alternatively, the farmers could continue growing sugarcane while implementing strategies that target the reduction of fertilizer application.

As aforementioned, the farmers near the reef have been receiving training from the Game Changer program, and so far, there are notable improvements. The selection of this approach will include training and administrative costs. If the priority is the costs incurred, the government can opt for the less expensive strategy. However, if farmers’ preferences are considered, the most suitable undertaking that offers increased benefits can be selected regardless of the costs. Moreover, the administrative and financial concerns will be identified.



In summation, several concerns are emerging related to the contamination from agricultural runoff in the GBR. The runoff of fertilizers, including herbicides and pesticides, appears to be the most significant concern. Increased nutrient buildup and bacterial contamination have been identified. Previous approaches have not been able to address the issue fully. Awareness of marine ecosystems and water quality interactions with agricultural runoff should be enhanced through training and extension. Concurrent efforts should be enforced to document the magnitude and conditions of runoff consequences. Pilot projects might be the most effective approaches, especially when a policy provides almost similar benefits in order to identify effective agricultural technologies and administrative and monetary constraints. Investigation of economic incentives as an approach impacting on the management of marine ecosystems will be beneficial. 




Australian government Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment, 2020. Innovations In Sugar Cane Farming: Case Study. [online] Available at: https://www.environment.gov.au/marine/gbr/case-studies/sugar-cane-farming  [Accessed 3 May 2020].

Daniels, M.B., Sharpley, A., Harmel, R.D. and Anderson, K., 2018. The utilization of edge-of-field monitoring of agricultural runoff in addressing nonpoint source pollution. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, 73(1), pp.1-8.

Ho, Y.C., Lim, B.C. and Lim, J.W., 2020. Agricultural Runoff and Treatment Methods. In Handbook of Research on Resource Management for Pollution and Waste Treatment (pp. 550-575). IGI Global.

Kroon, F. and Schaffelke, B., 2016. Great Barrier Reef Pollution Controls Are Not Enough: Here’S What We Can Do. [online] Available at: https://theconversation.com/great-barrier-reef-pollution-controls-are-not-enough-heres-what-we-can-do-52861  [Accessed 3 May 2020].

Mateo-Sagasta, J., Zadeh, S. and Turral, H., 2017. Water pollution from agriculture: a global review. [online] Available at: http://www.fao.org/3/a-i7754e.pdf  [Accessed 3 May 2020].

Moore, M.T. and Locke, M.A., 2020. Experimental Evidence for Using Vegetated Ditches for Mitigation of Complex Contaminant Mixtures in Agricultural Runoff. Water, Air, & Soil Pollution, 231(4), pp.1-10.

Pearce, D., Atkinson, G. and Mourato, S., 2006. Cost-benefit analysis and the environment: recent developments. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and development.

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Policy Evaluation Report | Get Homework Help . (2022, July 16). Essay Writing . Retrieved September 29, 2022, from https://www.essay-writing.com/samples/policy-evaluation-report/
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Policy Evaluation Report | Get Homework Help . [online]. Available at: <https://www.essay-writing.com/samples/policy-evaluation-report/> [Accessed 29 Sep. 2022].
Policy Evaluation Report | Get Homework Help [Internet]. Essay Writing . 2022 Jul 16 [cited 2022 Sep 29]. Available from: https://www.essay-writing.com/samples/policy-evaluation-report/
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