Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Protecting water

Protecting water

Water abstraction and impoundment

  • If you want to abstract or impound water from a borehole, a spring, a burn, a stream, a river or loch/lough you may need authorisation from the NIEA or SEPA.

NetRegs: Water abstraction or impoundment



  • In northern Ireland: contact the Rivers offices for information about dredging of waterways.
  • In Scotland: read the guidance from SEPA on any works in or near water.

Northern Ireland: Contact the DfI Rivers offices

SEPA: Dredging, a land managers guide

SEPA: Dredging a straightened river between 1 and 5 metres wide


Bank management

  • Protect riverbanks from erosion and stabilise existing riverbanks using best practice techniques.

SEPA: Engineering in the water environment

SEPA: Sustainable riverbank protection

SEPA: Reducing riverbank erosion - best practice guide


Works in or near water

  • Working in or near water can cause damage to the bed or banks, can cause problems with silt in the watercourse and can transfer non-native species.

GPP 5: Works and maintenance in or near water


Poaching and bank erosion

  • Know the rules that prevent significant poaching
  • Position livestock feeders at least 10m from water
  • Fence areas to prevent animals accessing watercourses

Northern Ireland: Cross compliance and verifiable standards

Farming and Water Scotland: Poaching and erosion


Steading drainage

  • Runoff from around the steading must not cause pollution. Collect and store drainage contaminated with manure or slurry
  • Lightly contaminated drainage can be treated with constructed farm wetlands or other sustainable drainage systems.

Northern Ireland: Good agricultural practice -air, soil and water

Farming and Water Scotland: Steading drainage

Constructed farm wetlands: design manual for Scotland and Northern Ireland

CIRIA: the SuDS manual


Septic tanks, biodiscs for sewage treatment

  • Check if your building has a septic tank or other treatment system
  • Is it in proper working order, e.g.are there odours, or does the wastewater drain very slowly?
  • Make sure you know what can and can’t go into the tank
  • Is it emptied regularly?

NetRegs: Septic Tanks

NetRegs: Septic tanks e-learning course. 


The use of buffer strips

  • Buffer strips prevent the loss of soil to ditches, burns , rivers etc. and help prevent pollution from fertiliser and pesticide runoff.

Northern Ireland: Cross compliance and verifiable standards

Farming and Water Scotland: Diffuse pollution


Spreading fertilisers

  • Make sure when you apply fertilisers that the nutrients will remain on your farm where needed.
  • Be aware of weather conditions, soil conditions and know the rules for spreading near water.
  • Maintain your spreading equipment and make sure it is properly calibrated.

DAERA: Nitrogen fertiliser options

DEARA: Use of organic fertilisers and soil improvers

Farming and Water Scotland: Slurry and manure

Farming and Water Scotland: Inorganic fertilisers


Pesticides and water

  • Pesticide users must have a certificate of competence, or work under the supervision of someone who has.
  • The storage and handling of pesticides must be done in a way that prevents the risk of pollution.
  • Know the rules for spraying pesticides near water, and take care washing down equipment.

DAERA: guidance on the use of pesticides

Farming and Water Scotland: Using pesticides

Farming and Water Scotland: Purchase and storage of pesticides


Soil and cultivation

  • Soils are an essential resource: check that you are not damaging soil eg by compaction and that soils are not being washed off your land.

DAERA: Soil structure and avoiding compaction

DAERA: Valuable soils need protection

Farming and Water Scotland: Soil and cultivation 


In this Guideline:

Look after your soil

Protect water

Care for animals

Manage your crops

Manage waste

Make use of buildings

Machinery, equipment and fuel

Protect biodiversity

Small scale forestry

Management tools

Dealing with emergencies

Further information - support and useful websites

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NIEA - Apply online

SEPA - Application forms