In the north-western European countries Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom (UK) and Ireland, variability in the forms, amounts and timing of phosphorus (P) loss from agricultural land is related to national differences in climate, soil, hydrological conditions and agricultural production. The dissolved form of P constitutes 9–93% of the total phosphorus (TP) in water, subsurface drainage can contribute 12–60% and surface erosion 40–88% of TP transfer. TP export in small agricultural streams is generally in the range 0.3–6 kg ha−1 year−1, with the highest losses in Norway and UK. All four countries are complying with the EU Water Framework Directive and developing a range of measures based on P source with transport controls over P losses. A decreasing trend in TP losses has been detected in agricultural streams following the introduction of measures to reduce erosion in Norway. Average P concentrations in Swedish streams have shown a reduction of nearly 2% per year since 1993 as a result of measures introduced in southern Sweden. However, in two large rivers in agricultural regions of Sweden, the concentrations of suspended solids (SS) and TP were shown to increase by 0.4% and 0.7% per year, respectively, over the period 1975–2004, possibly as a result of climate change. It is too early to detect trends in agricultural contributions to P in surface waters as a result of catchment-sensitive farming (CSF) in the UK and Ireland.