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Farmer Actions to Improve Water Quality

Select the right measure in the right place to mitigate phosphorus, sediment and nitrogen losses to waters by -

  1. Find out what the water quality status is for your local river

  2. Use Pollution Impact Potential (PIP) maps to identify the critical source areas (CSAs) for phosphorus, sediment and nitrogen losses on your farm

  3. Also identify the overland flow pathways on your farm from the PIP maps

  4. Once you know the CSAs on your farm you can take on appropriate measures

             Phosphorus and Sediment

      1. Use ‘break the pathway’ measures to prevent run off overland into the drainage networks

      2. For example – targeted riparian margins and buffer margins, use of low earthen mounds, planting of trees and hedgerows, prevention of livestock access to water, wetland ponds, careful management of CSAs, sediment traps

      3. Tillage farms – adhere to the buffer margins in the regulations and put in place appropriate ‘break the pathway measures’ as per above


      1. Nutrient management is very important to reduce the risk of nitrate leaching

      2. Ensure soil fertility is optimum for P, K and pH, take soil samples and follow a nutrient management plan

      3. Use sulphur to improve nitrogen use efficiency

      4. Apply nutrient when soil temperature, soil moisture content, growth rates and weather forecast are suitable particularly in the early and late growing season or during drought

      5. Add clover and multi-species swards to your pasture

      6. Quantify the nitrogen surplus on your farm and take measures to reduce the surplus, the lower the surplus the less there is to be lost to water

      7. Tillage farms – plant cover/catch crops post harvesting to capture N in the soil in autumn and prevent leaching to ground water

  5. Ensure that your slurry, soiled water, dairy washings, silage effluent and farm yard manure collection and storage facilities meet regulatory requirements

  6. Make your contractor aware of the locations of CSAs, watercourses, drains etc. on your farm and ensure appropriate buffers are kept when spreading organic manures or spraying pesticides

  7. Adhere to best practice when dipping sheep so as to minimise the risk of dip entering the drainage network