Keywords: Diffuse pollution, agriculture, catchment management, Water Framework Directive, priority catchments, River Basin Management Planning.
Rural diffuse pollution is the single largest pollution pressure in Scotland, contributing to adverse effects on water quality in around 400 water bodies. Many of these water bodies will fail to reach the standard required under the Water Framework Directive without some form on intervention.
A national programme to tackle rural sources of diffuse pollution and encourage best practice across the farming sector was implemented in 2010-2015. Fourteen diffuse pollution priority catchments containing some of Scotland’s most important waters (for drinking, conservation, industry or tourism) with identified failing water standards were selected for targeted effort. The work approach had three phases:
• characterisation and evidence gathering (desk based study and catchment walks);
• awareness raising of farmers;
• one to one engagement with farmers to assess diffuse pollution risk and advise on measures to reduce risk and follow up inspections.
During the initial catchment walks, 5,835 km of watercourses were assessed for pollution risks, including compliance with Diffuse Pollution General Binding Rules (DP GBRs). This includes activities such as applications of fertilisers and manures, poaching from livestock, or crops being cultivated too close to the water. 5,169 breaches of the DP GBRs were recorded. The most frequent issues of non-compliance with the DP GBRs related to the keeping of livestock, cultivation of land, and the storage and application of fertiliser.
Approximately 400 workshops and open days about diffuse pollution, soil management, nutrient use and manure management were arranged with partner organisations and attended by about 10,000 people from the agricultural sector. Practical research on diffuse pollution was also commissioned to improve understanding.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) carried out 3,183 farm visits. The compliance rate with the DP GBRs was low (35% of farms) at this first visit. Main Issues identified were poaching or cultivation too close to water and poorly managed spreading of manures and slurries. Other issues requiring action included the need to improve clean and dirty water separation, oil storage, pesticide handling areas and inadequate slurry storage. SEPA visits focussed on discussing, advising and agreeing with farmers the measures that should be implemented to reduce the risks of diffuse pollution. Subsequently, there was good work carried out by many farmers in the priority catchments to put measures in place to mitigate the effects of diffuse pollution. To date, 1,003 farms where there was non-compliance of the DP GBRs have been revisited to check compliance progress. Interim results showed that 41% of these farmers are now compliant and 45% are working towards compliance.
Mark Aitken and Stephen Field, Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), Strathallan House, Castle Business Park, Stirling, UK.
24 pages, 22 references