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Promoting Good Practice – New Water Regulations for Farmers

Mon 26 March 2018

From 2nd April 2018 the new Farming Rules for Water are being introduced to all farmers across England, which must be adhered to. The rules seek to set a baseline of good farming practice in relation to the use of manures and fertilisers, as well preventing pollution and reducing soil erosion. The new Rules also require every field parcel to have a soil test every 5 years. Whilst termed a “new” set of rules, there is overlap with existing requirements under Cross Compliance.


The new Rules apply to all farmers regardless of whether or not the holding is already placed within a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ). The main requirement of the Rules are that farmers must now plan the application of manure and fertiliser, with a soil test every five years prior to applying manure or fertiliser on cultivated land (this includes land which has been either physically cultivated or chemically cultivated e.g. received fertiliser applications).  The rules also include limitations on where livestock feeders can be positioned.

The eight rules are split with five focusing on the management of fertilisers and manures and three on soil management:

Rule 1: Planning Use of Manures And Fertilisers

The application of manure and manufactured fertilisers must be planned in advance to meet soil and crop nutrient needs and not exceed these levels. Planning must take place and include soil testing at least once every 5 years. The planning must take into the account where there is a significant risk to pollution, such as, gradient of the land, land cover, proximity to watercourses and ponds, weather conditions and forecast, soil type and condition and the presence and condition of land drains.

Rule 2: Storing Organic Manures

Manure must not be stored within 10m of a watercourse or pond, or within 50m of a spring, well or borehole.

Rule 3: Applying Manures or Fertilisers

Manure and manufactured fertiliser must not be applied if the soil is waterlogged, flooded or snow covered, or has been frozen for more than 12 hours in the previous 24 hours and there is a significant risk of causing pollution.

Rule 4: Where Not to Apply Organic Manures

Manure must not be spread within 10 metres of a watercourse or pond (or 6m if precision equipment used), or within 50 metres of a spring, well or borehole.

Rule 5: Where Not to Apply Fertiliser

Manufactured fertiliser must not be applied to land within 2 metres of a watercourse or pond.

Rule 6: Reasonable Precautions to Prevent Soil Erosion

Reasonable precautions must be taken to prevent soil erosion and run off resulting from the application of manure and fertilisers, land management and cultivation practices and poaching of livestock.

Rule 7: Protecting Against Soil Erosion by Livestock

Any land within 5 metres of a watercourse or pond must be protected from significant soil erosion by preventing poaching by livestock.

Rule 8: Positioning of Livestock Feeders

Livestock feeders must not be positioned within 10 metres of a watercourse or pond, or within 50 metres of a spring, well or borehole, or where there is significant risk of pollution from poaching entering any watercourses.

The Environment Agency (EA) are the regulators of these rules, and will use their formal enforcement powers, where necessary, to ensure compliance. The EA will focus on known “non-compliant” farmers, as well as focus on areas where the risk of pollution is higher due to the farming activities undertaken. Any farmers not acting in accordance with the eight new rules could face a compliance inspection by the EA.

Joanna Wall BSc (Hons) MRICS FAAV

Craven Arms Office - 01588 672385 / 07815 099802 or

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