Land Use – Advice for Farmers and Land Managers

Agriculture Matters

Land managers have a direct impact on our rivers

What happens on the land has a profound effect on the quality of our water. Agricultural land is the dominant land use in our catchments and so farmers have an important role to play in protecting our rivers, lakes, groundwater and bathing waters.

Preventing Soil Erosion

Conserving a valuable resource

Keeping the soil where it belongs, in the fields, will benefit everyone – soil erosion takes away valuable topsoil and nutrients. The most productive parts of the soil are in the top 3 to 6 inches and this topsoil can take hundreds of years to form.

Facts & Figures

The impact of farming on rivers

It is estimated that in England, agriculture accounts for:

  • between 10 and 60 per cent of phosphate levels in water;
  • about two-thirds of nitrogen in water;
  • 76 per cent of sediment in rivers; (affecting fish spawning habitats and linked to phosphate);
  • 80 per cent of Drinking Water Protected Areas at risk of failing to meet the required standards;
  • 15 per cent of bathing waters at risk of failing to meet the required standards.

Figures from “A Guide to Catchment Sensitive Farming” from Natural England

These negative effects are not inevitable and careful planning can reduce the impacts to negligible levels whilst ensuring farming remains viable.


What you can do to help

Farmers can do a lot to reduce pollution from their holdings by deploying the BIG THREE solutions.

  1. Reduce the source of pollution from fields, infrastructure, and pesticide handling areas
  2. Break or slow the pathway for pollution
  3. Protect the receptor or waterway from pollutants

from “A Guide to Catchment Sensitive Farming” from Natural England

The best methods vary between arable and grassland holdings so follow the links for more information.

For detailed fact sheets see the Rivers Trust Pinpoint Information sheets.

For information on Catchment Sensitive Farming see Natural England’s information 

Here to help

Assisting farmers to improve rivers

The Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust works with landowners to discover the causes and to put in place solutions that reduce diffuse pollution and the impacts from upland drainage channels (grips).

Such improvements are highlighted at local levels but also help the UK meet internationally important targets. The Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust carries forward these measures in partnership with landowners and will not ask farmers to carry out works that have financial implications to themselves.