Farmers and Water Quality
New DEFRA rules have been laid out to farmers and growers to protect water quality. The new rules, in force since April, relate to fertiliser and soil management. The aim is to keep livestock and manure out of water, keeping soil on land and matching nutrients to crops and soil requirements. Environment Minister, Therese Coffey said:
“These new rules are a win-win for farmers and the environment. They will help improve water quality, set a level playing field for all farmers, help businesses save money from better resource efficiency and improve their resilience.”
The 8 Rules Farmers Must Follow
Here is the round up of the 8 new rules for farmers, with a brief outline on what those rules mean.
- Assess pollution risk – Farmers need to consider the risks of runoff and soil erosion. This includes: soil types and condition, condition of land drains, area of ground cover, and distance to water sources such as wetlands and coastal waters.
- Manure and Fertiliser – Farmers will be required to plan each application of manure or fertiliser to their land. This means spreading on land surfaces, injecting into soil, how much fertiliser is being used and risk of pollution by carrying out soil tests.
- Applying fertiliser – Fertiliser must not be used on waterlogged, flooded or snow-covered ground, or ground which has been frozen for more than 12 hours in the past 24 hours. Fertiliser must not be used within 2 metres water.
- Using manure – The same rules are in place for manure, and manure must not be used within 50m of a spring, well or borehole. It is also forbidden within 10m of inland freshwaters or coastal waters, unless using special precision equipment.
- Reduce pollution risks when using manure and fertiliser – Farmers will be required to take responsibility and precautions to reduce the risk of pollution to water, by checking spreading equipment as well as getting fertiliser into soil within 12 hours of applying it.
- Storing manure – Farmers will need to assess the risk of runoff when deciding to store manure. Farmers storing manure will be required to store it no less than 10m of inland freshwater and within 50m of a spring, well or borehole.
- Prevent erosion, manage livestock and soil – Farmers must prevent soil loss caused by agricultural activity. The loss of soil can cause erosion which allows pollutants to get into watercourses.
- Manage livestock – Farmers must now prevent livestock compacting soil by poaching it within 5m of inland freshwater or coastal water, and within 50m of a spring, well or borehole. Farmer need to take precautions to prevent water pollution from livestock.
The Value of Water to Farmers
Water is essential to farmers. Their livelihood would be jeopardised without it, since both livestock and crops rely on water to flourish.
It is important that natural water resources on farmland are kept clean. Farmers need to make sure that water is free of pesticides, manure and debris. For most farmers, the most valuable source of water is rain and they obtain much of their water for crops and livestock this way. It is vital for crop growth and to ensure that there is plenty of lush pasture for animals to graze on.