• Amy Turner

Are you complying with the farming rules for water?

Do you know that the new rules for all farmers in England to help improve water quality are now in place and will be enforceable from 2 April 2019? The rules standardise good farming practices that many farmers are already demonstrating following on from the Codes of Good Agricultural Practice. The rules are separate from cross-compliance. Full details of the new rules are available using the link below:


You must take steps to prevent manure, fertiliser and soil getting into watercourses - known as diffuse water pollution (pollution).

These rules apply to farming or horticultural practices, such as:

- using and storing organic manure (manure) or manufactured fertiliser (fertiliser)

- planting and harvesting

- soil management - for example, ploughing or planting cover crops

- managing livestock on your land

These rules also apply if you:

are in a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone or receive funding from the Basic Payment Scheme, Countryside Stewardship or Environment Stewardship.

Assess pollution risks

You must take into account the risks of runoff and soil erosion from these factors:

- the angle of slopes, in particular if the angle is greater than 12 degrees

- amount of ground cover

- distance to inland freshwaters, coastal waters, wetlands, springs, wells or boreholes

- soil type and condition

- presence and condition of land drains

You must identify the risks that apply to your land and your activities. Chandler Watson recommend that a risk map is produced to demonstrate that you have considered any potential risks.

Before you use manure or fertiliser

You must plan each application of manure or fertiliser on your land.

Applying includes:

- spreading on the surface of the land

- injecting into the soil

- mixing manure or fertiliser with the surface layers of soil

For all farming and horticultural land you must plan:

- how much fertiliser or manure to use, so you don’t use more than your crop or soil needs

- by assessing the pollution risks

- by taking into account the weather conditions and forecasts at the time you want to apply manure or fertiliser on your land

You can use the Nutrient Management Guide RB209 to work out the nutrients your soil or crop needs.

Enforcement and inspections

The Environment Agency is responsible for enforcing these rules. It will do this through its farm inspections work. This may include checking:

- you’re meeting the distance restrictions in the rules

- for soil erosion affecting a single area of more than 1 hectare

- for poaching on a stretch of land (at least 2m wide and 20m long) next to an inland freshwater or coastal water

- for signs of fertiliser use in restricted areas - including excessive growth of vegetation on the margins of restricted areas

- fertiliser records, including records you keep on calibrating fertiliser equipment

- soil test results

- for evidence of pollution or if there’s a significant risk it could happen

- the types of crops you’re planting

How enforcement will work

If the Environment Agency finds you’re breaching the rules, it will help you by:

- identifying the changes you need to make

- agreeing a timescale with you to make changes

To check you’ve made changes, the Environment Agency may:

- give you a follow-up visit

- ask for evidence, such as photographic evidence of a change

If there’s already pollution or a high risk of pollution, the Environment Agency may take enforcement action. This may include prosecution.

This guide relates to The Reduction and Prevention of Agricultural Diffuse Pollution (England) Regulations 2018 which came into force on 2 April 2018 and states that these Regulations apply to ALL agricultural land in England.

The Farming Advice Service has produced a briefing note on these rules which can be found here: