Nitrate vulnerable zone

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A nitrate vulnerable zone is a conservation designation of the Environment Agency for areas of land that drain into nitrate polluted waters, or waters which could become polluted by nitrates. Nitrate vulnerable zones were introduced by the UK government in response to the EU mandate that all EU countries must reduce the nitrate in drinking water to a maximum of 50 mg/l.

The NVZs covered large areas of land that had been identified as exceeding or being at risk of exceeding 50 mg NO3/l.

NVZs have fairly relaxed rules on fertiliser application involving not fertilising at certain times of the year ( during the winter when runoff is greatest and uptake by plants at a minimum), reducing the amount of fertiliser used, and changing the times when animal waste is applied to the land ( waste must be held in tanks over the period when it cannot be applied). Farmers who do not adher to these restrictions can be fined by the Government. The restrictions are within the guidelines of GAP (Good Agricultural Practice) and so the farmers are expected to adhere without receiving any subsidies.

These NVZs are part of the scheme involved in NSAs (nitrate sensitive areas) which are assigned on a farm scale basis and have much more stringent rules on nitrate application and also include remuneration for profits lost from keeping to the rules.