Agriculture; staff at work: Applying 16-10-10 compound fertiliser (arable rotation - spring-sown oats & grassland). Oronsay RSPB reserve, Argyll.

Diffuse pollution from agriculture

Pollution is a significant issue for many UK water bodies, arising from different sources including sewage disposal and chemical run-off from urban and rural areas.

Diffuse pollution

Diffuse pollution from agriculture is a significant pressure on our rivers, lakes, lochs and coastal waters.

Run-off from chemicals and fertilisers used by farmers and land managers can enter our watercourses, causing nutrient enrichment, and have disastrous effects on aquatic plants, invertebrates and other wildlife. 

Initiatives are currently underway to try to reduce the adverse effects of diffuse pollution. These include the Catchment Sensitive Farming initiative in England and Wales, and work being carried out by SEPA and the Diffuse Pollution Management Advisory Group (DPMAG) in Scotland.

Across the UK, we are working to persuade governments to take prompt and vigorous action to help farmers tackle this serious problem.


This document is a summary of a full scientific review of the evidence. PDF, 497Kb.

Force-feeding the countryside: the impacts of nutrients on birds and other biodiversity

An examination of the evidence for indirect effects of nutrient inputs in three major habitats. PDF, 722Kb.

The indirect effects of increased nutrient inputs on birds in the UK: a review

This document is a summary of the full 'Better land for better water' project report. PDF, 930Kb.

Better land for better water - summary document

The final report. PDF, 269Kb.

Better land for better water