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Spreading slurry – Look after water quality in your area

03 February 2022 15:08

Spreading slurry – Look after water quality in your area | NI Water News

NI Water appreciate that farmers work very hard to look after the environment on a daily basis and ask everyone to consider carefully before spreading slurry, or other organic manures, so that there is no risk of pollution to our watercourses.  This is particularly relevant at this time of year as slurry tankers are back in action after the winter closed period from February 1st.

Nitrogen, found in our plants and soils, is a critical component of our agricultural system, with plant life being dependant on the nitrogen cycle to provide fresh farm produce from our local farms.  However, if not managed correctly, nitrogen applications from farm slurry, in fields with potential areas of high nutrient loss to waterways, can impact on the quality of our watercourses.

Roy Taylor, NI Water Catchment manager says, “In recent years there have been concerning, raised levels of ammonia particularly in the River Derg, leading to shut downs of the local Water Treatment Works. If slurry is spread on poor, very wet ground or during or just before wet weather conditions, it can run off the land; this results in valuable nutrients and ammonia ending up in our watercourses. This can lead to the Water Treatment Works shutting down which poses a significant risk to public water supply.  Removing nutrients from our water is also difficult and expensive, in order to provide the high quality drinking water we all expect.”

NI Water has this advice for farmers:

  • Do not spread on frozen land, on land with snow or on water-logged ground or when heavy rain is forecast in the next 48 hours.
  • In February, buffer zones for spreading slurry are increased when spreading.
  • Before spreading slurry, take soil samples which will help you decide how much slurry you should spread on fields. Farmers can use the DAERA online services CAFRE Crop Nutrient recommendation calendar. To access the calculators log onto
  • Low emission slurry spreading equipment MUST now be used on farms for spreading anaerobic digestate and also by all Slurry contractors.

NI Water and NIEA have recently increased monitoring and on-the-ground resources in areas of concern like the Derg catchment, to understand the sources of nutrients in our drinking water catchments.

In order to minimise the risk of slurry waste run-off into rivers and streams, NI Water encourages farmers to follow best practice and only spread slurry where land and weather conditions allow, always checking weather forecasts before spreading as rainfall could wash valuable nutrients off your land.

Better management of slurry and manure can:

  • Increase business profitability by maximising the value of slurries and manures.
  • Help to reduce the farm carbon footprint by maximising the value of your fertilisers.
  • Minimise the risk of local watercourses becoming contaminated.
  • Reduce the risk of disease transfer, if you abstract water from a watercourse or borehole as your source of livestock drinking water.
  • Contribute to protecting and enhancing local water quality for fish, wildlife and amenity use.
  • Keep on the right side of the regulations and help to protect your farm basic payment.


For further information, please contact NI Water press office on 02890354710 or email

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