Effectiveness of new plan to curb nitrate leaching in doubt

Proposals to establish up to 30 new Nitrate Sensitive Areas (NSAs) in which farmers will be offered compensation to change their farming practices so as to reduce nitrate leaching were issued by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) on 28 April.1 But the scheme encompasses fewer than a quarter of the areas put forward by the National Rivers Authority (NRA) as candidates for nitrate controls, and will need a much better response from farmers than those in ten pilot NSAs if it is to be effective.

The ten pilot NSAs were established in 1990 to test the effectiveness of various changes in agricultural practices in curbing leaching of nitrate under a range of hydrogeological and climatic conditions. The goal was to ensure that nitrate levels in groundwater within the NSA catchments are kept or reduced below 50mg/l, the limit set by the 1980 EC Directive on drinking water, so as to obviate the need for blending or treatment of water suppli

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