New rules on water quality in force on farms across England

From the start of April, new rules to protect water quality on farms have come into force across England

The rules require farmers to keep soil on the land, match nutrients to crop and soil needs and keep livestock fertilisers and manures out of nearby water.

A summary of the rules can be viewed here and below. They include a requirement to make sure you prevent livestock compacting soil by trampling it within 5m of an inland freshwater or coastal water. You must not place livestock feeders:

  • within 10m from inland freshwaters or coastal waters
  • within 50m of a spring, well or borehole
  • where risk factors mean there’s a significant risk of pollution.

You must take reasonable precautions to prevent pollution from managing livestock. Examples include:

  • moving livestock to prevent poaching and bankside erosion
  • putting up fences to keep animals away from watercourses
  • wintering livestock on well-drained, level fields.

The rules will be rolled out by the Environment Agency through what Defra described as an ‘advice led approach, working with farmers to meet the requirements before enforcement action is taken’.

Defra said the rules, drawn up with farming and environment stakeholders to build on the good progress that many farmers have made in tackling pollution, introduce a new approach to regulating farm practices that in time might be rolled out to reduce other environmental impacts.

Environment Minister Thérèse 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.

“Our ambition is to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we found it and these new rules will help us deliver our plans for a Green Brexit along with a better future for farming business.”


water rules

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Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.