THE GOVERNMENT has said that tough measures are needed to combat diffuse water pollution from farming.

Launching a public consultation on a variety of possible measures on Thurs (June 17), DEFRA junior minister Elliot Morley said that significant reduction of water pollution is needed.

While farming is not the only cause of diffuse water pollution, it is the major source, responsible for about 70% of nitrates and more than 40% of phosphates entering English waters.

“This kind of pollution costs £250m a year to clean up, which is equal to £7 a year on every one‘s water bill.

“It is very clear that because of the cost to our drinking water and the environment, measures to combat diffuse water pollution are justified,” Mr Morley said.

The consultation document, which is called “Developing Measures to Promote Catchment-Sensitive Farming” will ask farmers and other interested parties for their views on a range of possible measures.

These include:

  • Improving land management practices, investing in farm infrastructures and reducing the usage of potentially harmful pollutants
  • Changing land use in areas with an extremely high risk of pollution
  • Introducing Catchment Officers to identify and prioritise local water pollution problems and to help farmers implement solutions
  • Providing Grant Aid payments to help improve environmental conditions not addressed by current farm planning practices
  • Using economic instruments such as trading schemes and environmental levies

Mr Morley said that input taxation – an option considered by Denmark and France – may be needed in the UK as well.

This would mean putting a tax on fertilisers or animal feed containing nutrients which cause harm to groundwater and rivers.

“This is a consultation document. Hence it includes a wide variety of possible measures, not all of which will necessarily be adopted,” Mr Morley said.