NFU Cymru’s Environment and Land Use Adviser, Rachel Lewis-Davies discusses Welsh Government’s announcement to introduce regulations covering the whole of Wales to protect water quality from agricultural pollution. She explains, from evidence submitted by NFU Cymru, that there has been an increase in the number of waterbodies achieving good or better status.
With all the focus in the news on Brexit currently, it is easy to overlook other key issues coming down the road that have the potential to impact significantly on the day to day running of our farming businesses.
One such issue is the Welsh Government announcement, last November, to introduce regulations covering the whole of Wales to protect water quality from agricultural pollution. These regulations are expected to come into force from 1st January 2020, with transitional periods for some elements, and include the following measures:
• Nutrient management planning
• Sustainable fertiliser applications linked to the requirements of the crop
• Protection of water from pollution related to when, where and how fertilisers are spread
• Manure storage standards
Close examination of the new regulations shows new regulations closely mirror the requirements for Nitrate Vulnerable Zones, which together with additional measures will apply to the whole of Wales. This is an approach NFU Cymru categorically rejects.
Following discussions between NFU Cymru lawyers, JCP and Welsh Government earlier this year, Welsh Government confirmed that the development of the regulations will be subject to consideration of the available evidence and the findings of a Regulatory Impact Assessment.
We have worked to prepare this information, recently submitting over 100 pages of evidence to the Minister. Evidence shows that monitoring undertaken by NRW for the EU Water Framework Directive shows an increase in the number of waterbodies achieving good or better status. Agriculture activities were identified as the reason for not achieving good WFD status in 15% of water bodies in 2014.
Analysis of NRW pollution data shows that there has been no discernible trend (up or down) in the number of agricultural pollution incidents between 2001 and 2018. Based on NRW monitoring, preliminary expert judgement identified a downward trend in nitrates at just two out of the 11 NVZ designations, some of which date back to 2002.
We are clear the costs and impacts associated with the introduction of the proposed new regulations greatly outweigh any environmental benefit they deliver in terms of reduced agricultural pollution and improvement in water quality.
The issue of farming’s impact on water quality is one we must take seriously, we need to show all the steps we are taking that contribute to improvements in water quality where these are needed.
The evidence provided by NFU Cymru shows proposed new regulations are going to have a big impact. You can help us to highlight this by writing to the Minister and your AM to show how NVZ type regulations will affect your business and by sharing information on the positive work you are undertaking to improve water quality.