FARMERS WILL have to care for water much more as the full effects of the EU”s Water Framework Directive filter through. However, plenty of advice is on hand or in the pipeline.

The 2000 WFD sets a range of targets for member states to enhance water quality from 2003 to 2009, and will be fully implemented from 2010 to 2020. Tackling so-called diffuse pollution is a key aim.

Central to the directive is the “polluter pays” principle, stresses Juan Sagardoy of the FAO”s Land & Water Development Division. “The tendency will be to recover more and more [cost] from farmers.”

The directive introduces several new concepts, not least river basin management, explains the Environment Agency’s Helen Richardson. Member states must assess the ecological status of their waters and introduce m easures to address specific problems. “The WFD certainly doesn’t spell the end of UK farming, but we all have a lot of work to do,” Ms Richardson comments.

That was highlighted by her display of initial EA maps highlighting areas at risk from pesticide pollution. Kent and Hereford are at particular risk, whereas other parts of southern England are relatively risk-free.

Good agricultural practice, rather than regulation, will help minimise diffuse pollution, says Elinor Mitchell of the Scottish Executive.

Kathy Lewis of Herts University adds that subsidies will increasingly be linked to farmers’ ability to show they have taken steps to protect water.

“Farmers will need to be more aware of sources of pollution,” she says. “One problem is that the industry is awash with documents on best practice, but they are scattered across a whole range of authorities in different formats.”

For 30 a year (though some of it is free) ADlib provides easy on-line access to 400+ of them from 34 organisations. LaMis, being piloted in Hants and to be launched at Smithfield at a similar price, provides background data from various authorities to aid grant applications.