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Nitrate Vulnerable Zones

Water pollution from nitrates is a serious problem. Without costly treatment, it can make water unfit for human and livestock consumption, and can also cause serious damage to the aquatic environment. Almost two-thirds of this is caused by run-off from agricultural land into rivers and watercourses.

To address this problem, and in accordance with the EC Nitrates Directive Defra has designated areas as Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) – locations where the threat of run-off into rivers and watercourses is most acute.

Latest news

  • Applications for NVZ derogation open
    Applications opened on 1 October 2010 for farmers of grazing livestock in Nitrate Vulnerable Zones wishing to apply for a derogation to spread up to 250kg of livestock nitrogen manure per hectare in 2011. This is an increase on the limit of 170kg set by the EU Nitrates Directive. Read more…
  • Recent changes to NVZ boundaries
    Once the NVZs were determined, farmers were allowed to appeal if their land was designated as being inside an NVZ. Over 750 appeals were submitted, and a revised set of NVZ boundaries were issued in May 2010. Even if you did not appeal, your land may have been moved from inside to outside an NVZ.

Are you in an NVZ?

What you have to do?

  • If your farm is not in an NVZ, it is still a good idea to follow Defra’s code of good agricultural practice. It will help keep nitrate levels down and make it less likely your farms will be designated as an NVZ in the future. Download the code of good agricultural practice (PDF 1.2 MB).
  • If your farm is in an NVZ, you must comply with a series of NVZ rules. In addition, to qualify for the Single Payment Scheme or other direct farm payments, you must fulfil Statutory Management Requirement (SMR) 4, which explicitly covers NVZs.
  • Learn more about NVZs and how to comply with SMR4 on the Business Link website.
  • If your farm is at least 80% grassland you may be eligible for derogation from the NVZ rules.
  • Read the NVZ rules

Help and support

Defra has produced a range of leaflets and downloads to help farmers and landowners comply with the NVZ rules.

Catchment sensitive farming

The Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) programme aims to reduce pollution in rivers, groundwater and other aquatic habitats.

Page published: 3 October 2010