On November 14th last it became public knowledge that the EU
Nitrates Committee1 had approved a derogation to the
annual amount of livestock manure applied to land established
in the Nitrates Directive2 for Ireland. However, the
Commission's Decision on the derogation has not yet
been published. This Article will focus on the contents of the
European Communities (Good Agricultural Practice for Protection
of Waters) Regulations 2006 ("Nitrates Regulations")
which implement the Nitrates Directive. Most of the provisions
of the Regulations are already in force.
2. So how do the Nitrates Regulations affect Irish
The Nitrates Directive was approved by the EU Council in
December 2001 after growing concerns on increasing levels of
nitrates in the waters in some European countries. The aims of
the Directive are to reduce and prevent water pollution caused
by nitrates originating from agricultural sources. The Nitrates
Directive is currently transposed into Irish Law by the
The Nitrates Regulations provide for certain obligations for
farmers. First of all, there is an obligation to take
reasonable steps to minimise soiled water (for example, by
ensuring that rainwater from roofs is diverted to a clean water
outfall). Livestock manure and other organic fertilisers,
before being applied into the land, shall be collected and held
in a manner that prevents run-off or seepage into the
Some rules regulate the structural integrity of storage
facilities, focused mainly on preventing run-off or See page of
manure or fertilisers into groundwater or surface water and the
capacity of storage facilities. The storage capacity required
will depend on several factors such as the animals from which
the manure is originated or the county where the farm is
The Nitrates Regulations limit the application of
fertilisers on land by establishing a number of tables and
indices. Regarding livestock manure, the amount applied any
year to land together with that deposited by livestock, shall
not exceed an amount containing 170 Kg of nitrogen per hectare.
Tables to calculate the amount of nitrogen produced by
livestock and the nitrogen content of livestock manure are
provided in the Regulations.
Some provisions regulate the distances that should be kept
from water bodies when spreading the fertilisers and
requirements are placed on the manner of application of
fertilisers, soiled water etc. Ploughing and the use of
non-selective herbicides are also regulated.
Certain periods are set where the application of fertilisers
on land is prohibited, which generally start in September,
October or November and last until January and vary depending
on the county where the land is located.
There is finally a record-keeping obligation whereby records
for each holding shall be maintained which shall include,
amongst other information, the total area of the holding,
cropping regimes and their individual areas, livestock numbers
and type, estimation of annual fertilisers requirement, soil
3. Grant of the derogation
According to the Department of the Environment, the grant of
the derogation will depend on an increase in the penalties for
breach of the regulations in the legislation. The European
Communities (Good Agricultural Practice for Protection of
Waters) (Amendment) Regulations 2007 (S.I. 526 of 2007) has
provided for an increase in the penalties accordingly. The text
of the derogation is expected to be published soon.
1 The Nitrates Committee was set up by the Nitrates
Directive and it is composed of the representatives of the
Member States and chaired by the representative of the
2 Council Directive 91/676/EEC of 12 December 1991
concerning the protection of waters against pollution caused by
Nitrates from agricultural sources.
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