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Advice for Spreading slurry this springtime

07 March 2022 16:22

Advice for Spreading slurry this springtime | NI Water News

Slurries and manures are a valuable source of nutrients to promote plant growth and if used optimally, reduce the need for artificial fertilisers that are so costly at the present time.

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.  Given the recent spell of wet weather, which has left some fields saturated, it is more important than ever for farmers to take account of the potential water pollution risks from spreading slurry in sub-optimal ground conditions. It is important that farmers remember they have a responsibility to protect water quality when spreading slurry or manure.

It is therefore timely to remind farmers of their responsibilities under the Nitrates Action Programme Regulations to ensure that they protect water resources when spreading slurry or manures. Farmers should note that organic manures including dirty water must not be applied within:

  • 20 m of lakes;
  • 50 m of a borehole, spring or well;
  • 250 m of a borehole used for a public water supply;
  • 15 m of exposed cavernous or karstified limestone features;
  • 10 m of a waterway other than lakes; this distance may be reduced to 3 m where slope is less than 10% towards the waterway and where organic manures are spread by band spreaders, trailing shoe, trailing hose or soil injection OR where adjoining area is less than 1 ha in size OR not more than 50 m in width.

All contractors, and anyone spreading digestate, must use low emission slurry spreading equipment (LESSE), this also applies to any farms with over 200 livestock cattle units.

Rebecca Allen, NI Water Catchment Liaison Officer said, “Farmers totally understand and value the nutrients in slurry but often they struggle to make the best use of it and comply with regulations, which can be complex and onerous. 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 difficulties at the downstream Water Treatment Works, as well as damaging river water quality. 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.”

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.

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.


For further information, please contact NI Water press office email

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