EC Nitrates Directive

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The Nitrates Directive (91/676/EC) seeks to limit nitrogen levels to 50 mg/l in ground and surface waters throughout the EU.  Agriculture has been blamed as the main cause of levels being above this. Pig manures contain up to 7kg of total nitrogen per tonne, although less than 1kg of this is immediately available in the mineral form that is soluble.

EU Member States have to designate Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) and monitor water quality to assess the effectiveness of their Action Programmes that are designed to meet the targets.  

Sixty six Nitrate Vulnerable Zones, covering 8% of England, were designated in 1996 and the Action Programme of measures was applied in these NVZs from December 1998. 

A further 47% of England was designated as an NVZ in October 2002, then the Nitrate Pollution Prevention Regulations 2008 extended NVZs to 70% of the country and introduced stricter controls on the use of nitrogen. Subsequent regulations have been consolidated in the Nitrate Pollution Prevention Regulations 2015. 

NVZs and the Basic Payment 

Compliance with nitrate regulations within NVZs is also a Statutory Management Requirement (SMR1) to claim the Basic Payment as part of ‘cross compliance’ for the Common Agricultural Policy. This will be relevant to outdoor pig producers who claim the Basic Payment or crop farmers who keep pigs and have to manage their manure. 

For more in information on the nitrates regulations please click here