EAC Introduction: We decided to look at the issue of nitrate pollution for several reasons. One was the continuing problem of water quality. For instance, in October 2015, it was reported that the majority of water bodies in England were failing to achieve good status and that the Environment Agency was struggling to bring them into compliance with European legislation, despite the UK having a derogation that moved the target for compliance from 2015 to 2027. While there has been some improvements in the quality of bathing water, the poor ecological status of water systems continues to be problematic for our wildlife and pollution of groundwater sources affects a major source of our drinking water. Nitrates are one of the key nutrients involved in the pollution of rivers and streams and are the main pollutant in groundwater sources. They are predicted to worsen for some time to come. We also considered the related issue of air quality, particularly ammonia and nitrogen oxide emissions. These are related to nitrates, because ammonia and nitrogen oxides are part of the wider nitrogen cycle and emissions largely emanate from the same agricultural sources as nitrates. Ammonia and nitrogen oxides can also damage ecosystems, especially water ecosystems.
We were therefore keen to investigate how the Government was addressing the related issues of nitrate pollution and water and air quality. We looked at the implementation of current regulations, the role of the Environment Agency, the Rural Payments Agency and Natural England in monitoring progress and enforcing compliance, and how stakeholders, such as water companies and farmers, fitted in. We also wanted to assess some of the Government’s initiatives, such as its new Farming Rules for Water (introduced in April 2018) and its Clean Air Quality strategy (published in July 2018), and other measures it might consider.