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The Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths has today announced regulations to tackle agricultural pollution in Wales to protect the health of Wales’ rivers, lakes and streams.

First published:
27 January 2021
Last updated:

This was published under the 2016 to 2021 administration of the Welsh Government

The move comes as agricultural pollution incidents, which are widely accepted as being detrimental to human health, wildlife and tourism opportunities remain very high, averaging over three per week in the last three years. Some of these have led to the contamination of drinking water sources and the destruction of plant and aquatic life in parts of Wales’ waterways.

The new Regulations will ensure all farmers understand what actions they need to take to join those who are already protecting Wales’ rich environment and managing animal manures responsibly. The Regulations are proportionate to the risks of pollution, with farmers who already operate to recommended standards seeing a minimal impact to their practices.

Welsh Government has dedicated £1.5 million to help farmers improve water quality and £11.5m of capital funding will be used to directly support farm businesses to improve nutrient management infrastructure. This follows the Sustainable Production Grant scheme which supported over 500 farms with £22m of farm infrastructure investments up to September 2020.

While some areas in Wales have higher incidences than others, the connectivity of Wales’ waterways and emissions to the atmosphere means agricultural pollution is a problem that impacts the entire country. Rivers and lakes failing to meet legal water quality standards is widespread, risking public health and biodiversity, and negatively impacting previously internationally reclaimed rivers used for sports fishing and other recreation purposes.

On 31 December Natural Resources Wales declared a significant incident following the actions of a farmer in West Wales who spread harmful waste from his farm animals, despite the wet weather and saturated ground. This ended up one kilometre into the main river, a Special Area of Conservation.

The Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, said:

Agricultural pollution has affected water bodies across Wales for far too long and I am determined to act to protect the Welsh countryside, while supporting our farmers that want to do the right thing.

We continue to face a rate of more than three agricultural pollution incidents per week, and against such a backdrop, we are bound to do all we can protect the public and the environment.

I have given the industry every opportunity over the past four years to address the issue and bring those who are polluting our rivers in line with the many farmers who care for the environment. 

Wales was the first country in the world to declare a climate emergency and the only country who has enshrined in law a framework that requires us to think of our future generations. The Wales we leave today must be fit for our children and grandchildren, and it is all of our responsibility to uphold these standards.

Part of this is upholding exceptional water quality to protect our beautiful countryside and wildlife, and our drinking and bathing water for which we all depend on for our health, too. 

This also provides an opportunity for farmers to uphold exceptional standards that in turn will bolster the image of Wales’ agricultural industry.