On the 2nd April the new DEFRA requirements “Farming Rules for Water” will be introduced. These are supported by legislation in the form of The Reduction and Prevention of Agricultural Pollution (England) Regulations 2018 (SI 2018/151).

This comes from the EU Water Framework Directive which seeks to “set a baseline of good practice across the agricultural industry in England”. Many of the requirements of these new “Rules for Water” overlap with existing Cross Compliance requirements.

This is part of the recently published 25 year Environment Plan, creating a new baseline for good practice to help bring about the “polluter pays” principle to ensure higher levels of environmental management.



The Rules

There are eight rules in total, with three focusing on soil management and the remaining five on fertilisers.

Rule 1: planning and use of manures and fertilisers

Rule 2: storing organic manures

Rule 3: applying manures and fertilisers

Rule 4: where not to apply organic matter

Rule 5: where not to apply fertiliser

Rule 6: reasonable precautions to prevent soil erosion

Rule 7: protecting against soil erosion by livestock

Rule 8: position of livestock feeders


New Rules

Many of these are already included in Cross Compliance; however these three aspects are new:


1) Soil testing and analysis need to be completed on “cultivated agricultural land” every five years. This must test the levels of Phosphorous, Potassium, Magnesium, pH and Nitrogen.


2) The SMR 1 requirement to plan nutrient use which currently applied to NVZs has been extended to include land not designated as a NVZ. Nutrient levels required by crops, must be taken into account where applying manures and manufactured fertilisers, and these requirement levels not exceeded.  Significant risks of pollution* must be taken into account, as well as the levels of Phosphorous, Potassium, Magnesium, pH and Nitrogen levels in the soil recorded from the soil testing completed every five years.


3) Livestock feeders must not be positioned:

  • within 10 meters of any inland freshwaters or coastal waters
  • within 50 meters of a spring
  • well or borehole
  • where there is significant rick of pollution* from poaching around the feeder entering any inland freshwaters of coastal waters.


*Significant pollution is assessed by the slope of the land, ground cover, the proximity to water and wetlands, weather conditions, soil type and condition and agricultural drains. There are some exceptions and variations to this rule.



Enforcement will be “risk-based”, focusing on geographical areas of high risk or high pollution, as well as “non-compliant” farmers.

Inspections will be carried out by the Environment Agency independently from the Rural Payment Agency’s Cross Compliance inspections. However they are going to work together to ensure there is no overlap between breaches of Cross Compliance and the Farming Rules for Water.

Where a breach is suspected a “compliance visit” will be undertaken and if a breach is found the Environment Agency and farmer will work together in an “advice-led approach” to establish the changes that need to be made to rectify the breach and the timescale for compliance. From here either a follow up visit or evidence will need to be submitted to prove compliance.

Civil sanctions and immediate enforcement action will only be taken is there is a pollution issue or risk of pollution caused is high. Punishment for a breach in this instance could result in a fine or forced enforcement. It is an offence not to comply with the Farming Rules for Water

It should be noted that while many of these aspects are already included within Cross Compliance (therefore any BPS claimant or Rural Development Programme agri-environment or woodland scheme agreement holder will already be bound by some of the rules), the Farming Rules for Water must be followed even by land managers and farmers not in a BPS or agri-environment scheme.


For further information please contact Aislyn Firth on 01684 853400 or aislynfirth@fts.carverknowles.co.uk