Agricultural Pollution


As the voice for the UK's wild fish, we are taking a stand against bad farming practices are harming them. Some of the problems associated with agricultural pollution include:

Agricultural pollution is the main source of diffuse pollution

Diffuse pollution refers to various pollutants which seep into water at various points, collectively causing untold destruction - poor agricultural practices are the leading source of this.

2.9 million tonnes of soil are lost from fields every year in England & Wales

Excess fine sediments from soil loss clog spawning redds and kill invertebrates in our rivers and lakes.

Phosphate pollution kills the food chain for fish and creates toxic choking algae

Phosphates from fertilisers changes plant communities. This can lead to toxic algal blooms, a risk to humans and animals alike.

Pesticides & chemicals damage ecology

Chemicals and pesticides used to increase yield, reduce pests and stop disease are running off fields and negatively impacting our water courses.

Delicate food-chains are disrupted

Antibiotics, wormers and other medication from livestock are leaching into our waters - the worrying impact of which is not fully understood.

See it, photograph it, report it

Agricultural pollution is occurring across England, Wales and Scotland as a result of bad farming practices, killing our wild fish and destroying our freshwater environments.

Not enough is being done to tackle it, and the rules are not properly enforced by our governments.

We need to ensure governments enforce the rules and take much needed action, and we need your help to do this.

Enforce enforcement

Not all farmers pollute rivers, but a minority do and seem not to care, while others do so unintentionally.  So, we are highlighting the problem of lack of enforcement of agricultural pollution rules.

Alongside a lot of behind the scenes campaigning, we are creating a UK database of incidents. We track bad practices and the destruction they cause, collating evidence which we can use as leverage in campaigning for change.

We are collecting and collating images and reports of agricultural pollution incidents which we will present to the respective national environmental agencies around the UK.

Because despite government rules and guidelines, not enough is being done!

We will therefore use your evidence to develop case studies and help us take action, with the ultimate aim of ensuring enforcement.

How can you help?

  1. If you spot an incident, make sure to take a photograph and make a note of the exact location, time and date. For accuracy, please try to find and save the exact location in Google maps and share the link with us.
  2. Report your concerns to the Environment Agency (EA) or Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) by calling 0800 80 70 60. For Welsh incidents contact Natural Resources Wales (NRW) on 0300 065 3000.
  3. Share the incident with us by completing our form below, after which we will be in touch to gather more information and your photos from you.
  4. We will upload your information into our incident record and add it to our database of case studies, which will be used to ensure enforcement.

Contact us with your agricultural pollution incident information

  • After you have reported the incident to the EA, SEPA or NRW, and acquired an incident number, please contact us using the adjacent form.
  • Please include a link to a saved Google maps location of where the incident occurred, as well as the date and time.
  • We will then get in touch with you to confirm details and receive your photos.
  • Your information will be added to our database and used as further evidence for enforcing stricter action from the EA, NRW and SEPA.
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What is being done about agricultural pollution?

What are UK governments doing about agricultural pollution?

In April 2018 the English Government published farming rules for water - a mandatory baseline of good practice that land managers across England must follow. It aims to reduce the risk of water pollution, conserve soils and promote the most efficient use of nutrients. The majority of farmers will already be meeting the requirements set out in the new rules, which do not raise the bar above what is already required by Cross Compliance under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). These guidelines are just the starting point and will not be enough on their own to restore our water environments.

In Wales, farmers are expected to follow the voluntary Code of Good Agricultural Practice (CoGAP). However, the number of recorded incidents of agricultural pollution clearly demonstrates that the code is insufficient and that a far more robust and enforceable suite of legally binding rules is required if we are to protect the freshwater environment and its many dependant species.

In Scotland more than three quarters of land area (more than 5.5 million hectares) is used for agriculture. Farmers are bound by Diffuse Pollution General Binding Rules (DP GBRs) and by the rules and guidelines outlined in the Prevention of Environmental Pollution From Agricultural Activity (PEPFAA) code of good practice, which includes do’s and don’ts - some of them linked to Single Farm Payment (SFP).


The critical element, for all countries in the UK, is how these rules will be enforced.

If you see any incidents or bad practices, or any agricultural activity negatively impacting our water courses, please take a photo; note the time, date and location; report it to your relevant body; and get in touch with us using the form above.

What are S&TC doing about agricultural pollution across the UK?

Here at S&TC, we believe we need new environmental land management policies across the UK.

These must be underpinned by strong regulatory baselines, which will require urgent investment in a fair and effective enforcement regime. However, evidence shows that changing farming practices – eg by better soil management – can lead to win wins for farmers and the environment; the best way forward!

To this end, we are working hard behind the scenes to enact much needed change and ensure enforcement.

We continue to lobby with colleagues at Wildlife and Countryside Link (England), Wales Environment Link (Wales) and other Scottish NGO's for a sustainable future for farming and the environment; but in the meantime you can help us get our campaign off the ground by submitting your own information.

agricultural pollution

Latest Agricultural Pollution News

Changes forced on organic manure application policy

Salmon & Trout Conservation forces Environment Agency to change Regulatory Policy Statement on spreading organic manure on agricultural land  Challenged by Salmon & Trout Conservation (S&TC), the Environment Agency has back-pedalled on its attempt to disapply the law on farmers not spreading manures this autumn where such spreading would exceed the needs of the soil […]

Relief for Welsh rivers as Government commit to agricultural pollution regulations

Members and supporters of Salmon & Trout Conservation in Wales will be well aware of our relief that the Welsh Government has finally committed to the introduction of regulations to curb the scourge of agricultural pollution in Welsh rivers. The Water Resources (Control of Agricultural Pollution) Regulations 2021 are due to come into force on […]

NRW’s planning advice on Wye pollution ineffective say conservation organisations Fish Legal and Salmon & Trout Conservation

Aquatic conservation organisations Fish Legal and Salmon & Trout Conservation (S&TC) have written to Natural Resources Wales (NRW) about on-going pollution of the River Wye and its headwaters and tributaries. Following the publication of NRW’s “planning advice” to Councils on development on or near the River Wye and tributaries, Fish Legal and S&TC have told […]

Phosphorus, Chickens and the River Wye

S&TC’s agricultural policy is simple; incentivise farmers to invest in their infrastructure and spread the word about modern soil management, but always be prepared to use the current legislation to regulate persistent offenders… Paul Knight, S&TC Fisheries Consultant George Monbiot writing in the Guardian recently highlighted the dreadful state of Welsh rivers.  He focussed on […]

S&TC Cymru Update June 2020

Richard Garner Williams, S&TC National Office for Wales writes: In a spirited demonstration of enthusiastic collaboration S&TC Cymru, the Wild Trout Trust, the Grayling Society and the Game and Wildlife Trust recently joined forces in writing to Lesley Griffiths, Welsh Government Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs offering broad support for Natural Resources Wales’ […]

Milk. A serious environmental threat?

So, here’s the shocking news about the potential of milk to pollute rivers. Paul Knight, S&TC CEO writes, One of the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic has been that the demand for milk has slumped and so dairy farmers have had to pour away their excess, cows still have to be milked, after all, so […]

Agricultural Pollution – Educate, Encourage, Enforce

“Up to 2016, a staggering 95% of farms did not comply with storage regulations and 49% were polluting the River Axe. Environmental law breaking, albeit mostly through lack of knowledge, on a massive scale.” Paul Knight, Outgoing CEO Salmon & Trout Conservation writes, S&TC’s Census Report, published in May 2019, provided evidence that the main […]

Environmental Land Management Scheme 2020

Environmental Land Management Scheme Consultation 2020 Make your voice heard: CLOSING DATE FOR COMMENTS 5th May 2020 Overview of Salmon & Trout Conservation (S&TC) Response • The main requirement is for political commitment to finally tackle the issue of pollution by inappropriate land use – particularly relevant to our rivers and aquatic life (EA River […]

S&TC launches first SmartRivers hub in Scotland

S&TC launches first SmartRivers hub in Scotland in partnership with Flow Country Rivers Trust. The River Halladale is set to become the first river in Scotland to join SmartRivers, as Salmon and Trout Conservation continue trials of the innovative scheme. The scheme, born out of the Riverfly Census, uses aquatic invertebrates as a diagnostic test to […]

Sewin and their habitats

SEWIN AND THEIR HABITATS Update 14 March 2020: This event has been postponed. All those who expressed an interest will be contacted once a new date is fixed. 10am – 4pm, Monday, March the 30th, 2020 Salmon and Trout Conservation Cymru warmly invite you to their Annual Seminar for 2020 An opportunity to hear the latest […]

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