Lesley Griffiths, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs
Across the UK, a number of areas are designated as Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZ), areas which are particularly at risk of water pollution caused by nitrates from agricultural sources. In these areas mandatory Action Programme measures are established, based upon established good practice, designed to prevent pollution.
Today, I am launching a consultation to consider options for the modification of the existing Action Programme measures and the areas of Wales those measures will apply in.
It has been four years since the last review of the NVZ designation and Action Programme measures was completed in Wales. A four yearly review is a requirement of the EU Nitrates Directive. Whilst the UK remains part of the EU, there is a requirement to abide by EU law. Until our withdrawal from the EU is complete, the Welsh and UK Governments will continue to be obliged to make and enforce legislation to transpose the requirements of the Directive.
The aims of the EU Nitrates Directive in protecting the quality of our water are the same as those of the Welsh Government, specified by the goals of the Well-being of Future Generations Act, in respect of a healthier and resilient Wales. These aims also align with the statutory management of natural resources outlined in the Environment Act. Wales’ implementation of the Directive focuses on good nutrient management practices and supports the sustainable use of our precious natural resources. Efficient nutrient management is not only essential for reducing agricultural pollution of our watercourses and drinking water supply, but also enhances the reputation of Wales’ farming industry in the important role the industry and individual farmers have in helping to manage Wales’ environment.
Wales prides itself on producing high quality produce in a country with a reputation of a healthy environment. Much of Wales’ trade in agricultural produce is based upon this fundamental assumption and there is great risk to the industry if this reputation is damaged. This competitive advantage, which may become increasingly important in the future, will not be easily regained if lost.
Measures to tackle agricultural pollution will continue to be essential to improve water quality in Wales in both the lead up to and following our departure from the EU. This consultation provides an opportunity for the people of Wales to comment on what the measures might be and how they should be applied now and in the future.