Agricultural diffuse pollution—regulation and enforcement
Agricultural diffuse pollution—regulation and enforcement

The following Environment practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Agricultural diffuse pollution—regulation and enforcement
  • Agricultural diffuse pollution
  • What is diffuse water pollution?
  • Regulation of agricultural diffuse pollution
  • Water Framework Directive
  • Nitrates Directive
  • Status of EU directives following Brexit
  • Common Agricultural Policy
  • Regulation in England and Wales
  • Reduction and Prevention of Agricultural Diffuse Pollution (England) Regulations 2018
  • More...

Agricultural diffuse pollution—regulation and enforcement

Agricultural diffuse pollution

Diffuse agricultural pollution is contamination of the soil, air and water environment resulting from farming activities. This pollution tends to arise over a wide geographical area and is dependent on what happens on the surface of the land. Activities such as ploughing, seedbed preparation, crop spraying, fertiliser spreading and applying slurry may all contribute to diffuse pollution. Run-off from farm roads and yards, the surface of fields and dusty roofs after rainfall are all potential sources of pollution. There is therefore a wide range of potential diffuse pollution sources which are associated with farming practices and which can harm the environment.

Diffuse pollution from agriculture is a significant source of pollution in England as 70% of land is farmed. It is also a significant issue in Wales, for example Natural Resources Wales (NRW) deals with approximately 70–120 slurry pollution incidents from farms each year.

The main sources of diffuse pollution from agriculture are:

  1. fertilisers—nitrogen, phosphates and potassium from chemicals or manure from fields can enter surface water via runoff, or filter into groundwater. Increased levels of nutrients can cause algal blooms which deplete oxygen levels in the water body (this is known as eutrophication)

  2. pesticides—insecticides, fungicides and herbicides used for pest control can enter surface water directly (eg if spraying occurs close to water) or indirectly through runoff.

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