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Catchment Sensitive Farming

CSF logoUnder the requirements of the Water Framework Directive, the Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) programme aims to reduce the level of diffuse pollution in rivers, groundwater and other aquatic habitats caused by farming operations.

Plain English guidance on Catchment Sensitive Farming can be found on the Business Link website.

See the Natural England website for information on CSF events, catchment areas, partnerships, grants, reports and monitoring and evaluation.

Phase 3 of the Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) programme (2011-2014)  takes forward the government’s strategic review of diffuse water pollution from agriculture (DWPA). It aims to promote voluntary action by farmers and other land managers to tackle the problem of DWPA, and so achieve the requirements of the WFD.

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Key facts and figures

  • Agriculture contributes around 25% of Phosphate in English waters and between 25 – 50% of the pathogen loadings which affect England’s bathing waters.
  • Up to 75% of sediment input into rivers can be attributed to agriculture. This reduces water clarity and causes serious problems for fish, plants and insects.
  • Pesticides are contaminating drinking water sources, requiring expensive treatment at water works to remove pesticides before it is supplied to consumers.
  • Defra funds a £21 million Capital Grants Scheme in 2012-13 to support land managers in priority catchments in England, which help farmers to improve and install facilities that would benefit water quality by reducing diffuse pollution from agriculture.


The Water Framework Directive (WFD) is the most substantial piece of EC water legislation to date and is designed to improve and integrate the way water bodies are managed throughout Europe. In the UK, much of the implementation work will be undertaken by competent authorities (Natural England and the Environment Agency). It came into force on 22 December 2000, and was put into UK law (transposed) in 2003. Member States must aim to reach good chemical and ecological status in inland and coastal waters by 2015.

It is designed to:

  • enhance the status and prevent further deterioration of aquatic ecosystems and associated wetlands, which depend on the aquatic ecosystems
  • promote the sustainable use of water
  • reduce pollution of water, especially by ‘priority’ and ‘priority hazardous’ substances (see Daughter Directives)
  • ensure progressive reduction of groundwater pollution

Key publications

Page last modified: 5 September 2012