Description

Water pollution from widespread activities, such as agricultural or urban runoff, with no one discrete source. Pollution is often in the form of increased nutrients such as nitrates or phosphates.

Key locations

Throughout the Berwickshire and Northumberland coast

Frequency

Diffuse inputs are continuous from rivers and coastal streams and from land run-off. Rainfall and other events in the catchment can cause levels to fluctuate.

Potential issues

  • Nutrient enrichment
  • Organic enrichment
  • Diffuse pollution is particularly a problem in areas surrounding Holy Island including Budle Bay and Fenham Flats. Elevated nutrient levels surrounding Holy Island may be causing an increased abundance of Ulva intestinalis (Enteromorpha) which is creating anoxic conditions within sediment and may be affecting the underlying benthos. It is also smothering the seagrass (Zostera spp.) beds and may be having an impact on the SPA habitats.

Features of Marine Protected Areas which might be affected

  • Reefs
  • Sea caves
  • Sand and mud flats
  • Inlets and bays
  • Grey seal
  • Birds (wintering and breeding)

Legal Responsibilities or Duties (England)

A number of legal powers, duties or regulatory tools exist which are relevant to this activity and its management. These are summarised in the table below:

Legal Power, Duty or Regulatory Tool Relevant Legislation Lead Organisation
Requirement on land managers to take reasonable steps to reduce risk of diffuse pollution from agricultural operations The Reduction and Prevention of Agricultural Diffuse Pollution (England) Regulations 2018 Environment Agency
Prohibition on applying organic manure and manufactured fertiliser in certain circumstances The Reduction and Prevention of Agricultural Diffuse Pollution (England) Regulations 2018 Environment Agency
Requirement to produce River Basin Management Plans The Water Environment (Water Framework Directive) (England and Wales) Regulations 2017 Environment Agency

Relevant Guidance, Plans or Codes (England)

The following guidance, codes, plans or strategies are also relevant to the management of this activity:

Name Description Responsible Organisation Statutory or Non-Statutory?
Northumbria River District Basin Management Plan The River Basin Management Plan sets out the current state of the water environment, pressures affecting the water environment, environmental objectives for protecting and improving the waters, a programme of measures, and actions needed to achieve the objectives

 

Environment Agency Statutory
Solway Tweed River District Basin Management Plan The River Basin Management Plan sets out the current state of the water environment, pressures affecting the water environment, environmental objectives for protecting and improving the waters, a programme of measures, and actions needed to achieve the objectives Environment Agency/SEPA Statutory
Tweed Catchment Management Plan The Tweed Catchment Management Plan identifies collective issues, priorities and potential solutions are for all aspects of the Tweed catchment, including water quality issues Tweed Foundation Non-statutory

Details of Current Management (England)

Diffuse pollution is managed largely through the River Basin Management Planning process and through agricultural regulations and advice. A summary of management mechanisms is given below:

Water Framework Directive and River Basin Management Planning

The Water Framework Directive requires EU member states to put in place River Basin Management Plans. This requirement is transposed into English law by The Water Environment (Water Framework Directive) (England and Wales) Regulations 2017. The river basin planning process involves setting environmental objectives for all groundwater and surface waters (including estuaries and coastal waters) within the river basin district, and devising programmes of measures to meet those objectives.

Separate River Basin Management Plans exists for Northumbria and for the Solway Tweed River Basin Districts. These set out specific management measures, including those required to deal with diffuse pollutions issues. Monitoring of Ecological Status of waters is undertaken by the Environment Agency along with specific investigations into the reasons why water bodies are failing to meet their objectives. This includes ongoing monitoring and investigation into the causes of nutrient enrichment of the mudflats at Budle Bay.

The Reduction and Prevention of Agricultural Diffuse Pollution (England) Regulations 2018

The Regulations sets out provisions to reduce and prevent pollution of inland and coastal waters (surface waters) from farming activities on agricultural land in England. They are enforeced by the Environment Agency.

Catchment Sensitive Farming

Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) is an English programme of supportive measures such as farm advice, training and capital grants targeted at priority catchments to help reduce soil erosion and nutrient and pesticide losses to water. CSF is managed by Natural England and the Environment Agency.

Catchment Management Plans

The production of Catchment Management Plans, such as that for the River Tweed, offer a local opportunity to address diffuse pollution issues.

Gaps in Management (England)

The source of nutrient enrichment around Holy Island has yet to be identified. Unclear of sediment transport and hydrology for north to south along the coast, but the Shoreline Management Plan Cell 1 coastal squeeze habitat study will be modelling sediment transport.

Legal Responsibilities or Duties (Scotland)

A number of legal powers, duties or regulatory tools exist which are relevant to this activity and its management. These are summarised in the table below:

Legal Power, Duty or Regulatory Tool Relevant Legislation Lead Organisation
Regulation of activities such as abstractions, impoundments and engineering works which could cause diffuse pollution The Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011 SEPA
Diffuse Pollution General Binding Rules (DP GBR) The Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011 SEPA
Requirement to produce River Basin Management Plans Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003 SEPA

Relevant Guidance, Plans or Codes (Scotland)

The following guidance, codes, plans or strategies are also relevant to the management of this activity:

Name Description Responsible Organisation Statutory or Non-Statutory?
Solway Tweed River District Basin Management Plan The River Basin Management Plan sets out the current state of the water environment, pressures affecting the water environment, environmental objectives for protecting and improving the waters, a programme of measures, and actions needed to achieve the objectives

 

Environment Agency/SEPA Statutory
 

Tweed Catchment Management Plan

The Tweed Catchment Management Plan identifies collective issues, priorities and potential solutions are for all aspects of the Tweed catchment, including water quality issues Tweed Foundation Non-statutory
The Rural Diffuse Pollution Plan for Scotland The Plan aims to ensure that the key stakeholders in Scotland work in a coordinated way to reduce diffuse pollution from rural sources SEPA Non-Statutory
Prevention of Environmental Pollution From Agricultural Activity: A Code of Good Conduct (2005) Code of good practice, giving practical advice to farmers and others on minimising pollution. The Scottish Government Non-Statutory

Details of Current Management (Scotland)

Diffuse pollution is managed largely through the River Basin Management Planning process and through agricultural regulations and advice. A summary of management mechanisms is given below:

Water Framework Directive and River Basin Management Planning

The Water Framework Directive requires EU member states to put in place River Basin Management Plans. This requirement is transposed into Scottish law by The Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003. The river basin planning process involves setting environmental objectives for all groundwater and surface waters (including estuaries and coastal waters) within the river basin district, and devising programmes of measures to meet those objectives.

Separate River Basin Management Plans exists for the Solway Tweed River Basin Districts. These set out specific management measures, including those required to deal with diffuse pollutions issues. Monitoring of Ecological Status of waters is undertaken by the SEPA along with specific investigations into the reasons why water bodies are failing to meet their objectives.

The Rural Diffuse Pollution Plan for Scotland

The Rural Diffuse Pollution Plan for Scotland aims to ensure that the key stakeholders in Scotland work in a co-ordinated way to reduce diffuse pollution from rural sources. The Plan was updated in 2017 and can be downloaded from https://www.sepa.org.uk/media/330130/rural-diffuse-pollution-plan-for-scotland-2015-2021.pdf

As part of the implementation of the Plan, SEPA are undertaking a range of measures within priority catchments. These include evidence gathering, awareness raising, one to one land manager inspections and advice, and targeting measures and funding.

Diffuse Pollution General Binding Rules (DP GBRs)

General Binding Rules are a set of mandatory rules which cover specific low risk activities. The Diffuse Pollution General Binding Rules (DP GBRs) are put in place under Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011. These rules are based of existing codes of good practice and are aimed to reduce the risk of diffuse pollution through from rural land use activities.  They cover a range of activities which pose a potential risk to the water environment, including:

  • Storage and application of fertiliser
  • Cultivation of land
  • Keeping of livestock
  • Application of pesticides
  • Operating of sheep dip facilities

Catchment Management Plans

The production of Catchment Management Plans, such as that for the River Tweed, offer a local opportunity to address diffuse pollution issues.

Gaps in Management (Scotland)

None