Questions and answers

Where did the new diffuse pollution regulations come from?

The Scottish Government published The Water Environment (Diffuse Pollution) (Scotland) Regulations 2008. This new legislation is based on widely accepted standards in codes of good practice such as the Prevention of Environmental Pollution from Agricultural Activity (PEPFAA) external link, the Forests and Water Guidelines external link and the 4 Point Plan external link.

These regulations, in the form of General Binding Rules (GBRs) external link, came into force in April 2008 and the resulting seven additional GBRs have now been incorporated into the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011 (CAR). In addition, a provision in the Control of Pollution (Silage, Slurry and Agricultural Fuel Oil) Regulations 2003 (SSAFO) has been amended to permit lightly contaminated water from farm yards to be drained to constructed farm wetlands.

Why are these requirements neccessary?

Diffuse pollution from land use activities has a significant impact on water quality. To achieve the objectives of the Water Framework Directive (WFD), we need to maintain and improve water quality.

Rural diffuse pollution arises from land use activities such as livestock grazing, cultivation of land to grow crops and from forestry operations. Such activities can give rise to a release of potential pollutants which individually may not have an impact but together, at the scale of a river catchment, can impact on water quality. The pressures and impacts from diffuse pollution are described in the Significant Water Management Issues consultation document and include eutrophication, loss of biodiversity, silting of fish spawning grounds, and impacts on human health through drinking water or bathing water pollution. The pollutants of concern include the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus, sediment, pesticides, biodegradable substances, ammonia and micro-organisms.

What do the new regulations cover?

The following activities require some form of authorisation from SEPA under the Controlled Activities Regulations (CAR):

  • storage and application of fertilisers;
  • keeping of livestock;
  • cultivation of land;
  • discharge of surface water run-off;
  • construction and maintenance of waterbound roads and tracks;
  • application of pesticide;
  • operation of sheep dipping facilities.
What do the regulations mean for land managers?

Land managers already following good practices will need to take little, if any, further action.  Where issues have been identified, land mangers will have to decide what changes are needed to comply with the regulations. Altering practices to comply with the diffuse pollution GBRs may be as straightforward as moving a feeding ring 10m away from a burn or keeping 2m back when cultivating next to a watercourse. As well as complying with legislation, these changes should help to improve water quality and may also benefit wildlife. SEPA does not require paperwork, costs or charges to be kept in association with the administration of diffuse pollution GBRs.

How will compliance with the diffuse pollution GBRs be assessed?

Some diffuse pollution GBR inspections will be carried by Scotland’s Environmental and Rural Services (SEARS) external link. SEARS involves nine organisations, providing rural services, working more closely together in order to deliver an improved service to land managers. It will be the responsibility of staff from Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspectorates Directorate (RPID), Forestry Commission and Scottish Natural Heritage to carry out farm visits to assess compliance with the diffuse pollution GBRs. Ultimately, SEARS seeks to reduce the number, complexity, cost and duration of inspections and remove duplication between organisations.

Is funding available to help reduce diffuse pollution risks?

Rural Development Contracts: Land Managers Options external link provide funding for some measures that can reduce diffuse pollution risk. Funding is also available under the new Rural Development Contracts - Rural Priorities external link;  a competitive scheme which aims to award funding to proposals which are best able to deliver benefits on a range of key outcomes specific to that area.