Land Management

The problem

Considerable progress has been made over the last 30 years to clean up Wales rivers from the damage caused by its industrial past. The river Taff, for example, was virtually lifeless and now supports thriving fish populations including salmon. But whilst chemical water pollution has significantly decreased in recent years, the hoped-for widespread improvements to the ecology of our rivers from the introduction of the Water Framework Directive have not been delivered. Currently only 43% of Wales waterbodies achieve the target of Good Ecological Status (GES). This year, saw Welsh Government declare a biodiversity crisis for Wales.

Slurry

Slurry pollution is generated from cattle rearing (beef and dairy) and pigs. It is a significant issue in the dairy belts of West Wales, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire, but it is spreading to upland areas of Wales. There are a number of routes in which slurry pollution can cause impact: 1) slurry pollution incidents (either deliberate or accidental disposal of slurry entering the watercourse) – these are known as point source incidents, 2) inappropriate management of slurry to land such as over-application, application during wet weather or inappropriate application (incorrect geology/soil type, application near on-farm drainage ditches which transport slurry to watercourses) – these are known as diffuse incidents. A key difference between these is that point source incidents are direct, visual and generally are identified as pollution incidents, reported by the public and media. Diffuse incidents however are much more slow-moving, may be difficult to trace to source and may enter the watercourse over a wider area. Both cause tragic impact to our rivers, wiping our whole ecosystems.

The principal sources of regulation and enforcement are:
• The Silage, Slurry and Agricultural Fuel Oil (Wales) regulations 2010 known as SSAFO
• The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016
• Cross compliance legislation
• The Water Resources (Control of Agricultural Pollution) (Wales) Regulations 2021

Afonydd Cymru strongly supported the implementation of these new regulations which will limit the amount of nitrogen that can be applied to land, defined periods for spreading and an increase in slurry storage. Full details can be found here:
https://gov.wales/sites/default/files/publications/2021-01/the-water-resources-control-ofagricultural-pollution-wales-regulations-2021.pdf

Whilst this goes some way to address the problem, Afonydd Cymru remains concerned regarding the enforcement of the regulations and the current state of prosecution under them. NRW evidence shows that 62% of dairy farms are non-compliant with the legislation.

We continue to fight for:
1. Ensuring all regulations are enforced
2. Ensuring NRW amendments to prosecution are amended for the new regulations
3. Ensuring the current monitoring regime is robust and capable of detecting and recording pollution

 

Soil

The loss of soil and poor soil management present a significant impact to watercourses AND a loss of income to farmers (through loss of organic matter, compaction
Afonydd Cymru would like to have specific standards for soil and are working to influence the Sustainable Management Scheme (the revised WG payment system due to be released in xxxxx).
Our farm advisors provide soil management advice, such as cover cropping, soil monitoring, compaction and organic matter advice. We also deliver restoration activity to improve riparian corridors including fencing, alternative stock access to water and buffer strips.
Afonydd Cymru are also working with food retailers and suppliers and food associations to drive change in the supply chain in Wales. We would like to see food standards strengthened, including environmental targets as well as the current animal welfare and farm infrastructure ones. More importantly, we want to see good farmers rewarded for good farming, we want to drive sustainable, food production in Wales and we want to consumers to recognize the importance of high quality, well-farmed food.

 

Nutrients

A number of rivers in Wales are currently suffering catastrophic impacts from high levels of nutrients. These nutrients enter from two main sources: agriculture and sewage discharges (link). In 2021, NRW published revised assessment of monitoring data for SAC rivers in Wales which showed that 60% of SAC rivers are now failing their targets (Clwyd, Dee, Teifi, Cleddau and the Usk).

Of particular concern, is the impact from a growing number of intensive poultry units (known as IPUs) which dominate agriculture in the River Wye and are expanding rapidly. This has led to significant algal blooms on the River Wye.
This has led to the following actions:
1. NRW has now applied planning restrictions on all development which impacts a SAC river – all development (agricultural or housing) must provide a phosphorus balance to offset the additional phosphorus posed by the development. Development should not be approved if this is in place.
2. NRW must produce a position statement on Nutrient Offsetting and develop the required policies to underpin it. We are concerned by the delay in this and the long-term impact that continues on our rivers.

What are we doing?

 
1. Afonydd Cymru have been working hard to develop the trusts capability to deliver nutrient offsetting schemes, both for agriculture (on-farm wetlands) and housing (integrated constructed wetlands).

 
2. We are currently engaged with local authorities across Wales who are impacted by the failure of SAC rivers. We are seeking new funding routes to support delivery of solutions to mitigate phosphate across Wales.

 
3. We want to see Catchment Management Partnerships for all SAC rivers in Wales, with catchment-wide Nutrient Management Plans for each SAC. This would build upon the work already undertaken on the River Wye.

 
4. We would like to work with NRW and WG to develop a consistent nutrient management approach for Wales, development of a phosphate calculator and identify catchment-specific solutions to each SAC.

Get In Touch