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Phosphates: Pollution

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN 185305, tabled on 21 April 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment his Department has made of the effectiveness of legislation on the containment of phosphates from agricultural waste within catchment areas.

Answered on

29 April 2021

Defra is committed to our ambitious targets in the 25 Year Environment Plan (found here) and are working to leave the environment in a better state than we found it.

In England there are several agricultural regulations on how farmers manage their use of nutrient rich material, including phosphorus, to protect water quality, biodiversity and human health. Some examples include:

  • The Nitrate Pollution Prevention Regulations (2015), which control the application of nutrient rich material to land within designated areas vulnerable to the impact of excess nutrients. Further guidance can be found here on
  • The Water Resources (Control of Pollution) (Silage, Slurry and Agricultural Fuel Oil) (England) Regulations (2010); also known as SSAFO which set minimum standards for storage of organic manures to protect the environment. Further guidance can be found here on
  • The Farming Rules for Water regulations (2018) which standardises good farm practices, including but not limited to where, when and in what conditions nutrient rich material (including those containing phosphorus) should and should not be spread. This includes not spreading manure within 10m of a watercourse to avoid diffuse pollution. Further guidance can be found here on

The Government is currently reviewing these regulations to ensure that any future reform makes them as effective as possible in protecting our environment while minimising costs to business.