Nitrate vulnerable zones

Rules farmers and landowners must follow if their land is in a nitrate vulnerable zone (NVZ).

Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) are areas designated as being at risk from agricultural nitrate pollution. They include about 55% of land in England.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) reviews NVZs every 4 years to account for changes in nitrate concentrations.

The last review was in December 2020. It did not find substantial changes in the patterns of nitrate pollution in England, so the areas designated as NVZs remain the same for 2021 to 2024.

This collection of guidance explains:

  • how to check if your land is in an NVZ
  • NVZ rules
  • NVZ and cross compliance requirements
  • how to prevent water pollution from your farm

NVZ designations and appeals 2021 to 2024

Find out:

  • if your land is in a nitrate vulnerable zone
  • how to appeal

Rules you must follow

If your land is in an NVZ, you must follow rules when you:

  • use nitrogen fertiliser
  • store organic manure

NVZ and cross compliance

NVZ rules are enforced by the Environment Agency.

If you have land in an NVZ and do not comply with the NVZ rules, you may be prosecuted and fined by the Environment Agency.

The Rural Payments Agency also carries out inspections to check farmers and landowners are complying with the NVZ rules as part of cross compliance.

You must meet all NVZ and cross compliance rules to qualify for full payments from:

  • the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS)
  • Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) schemes, such as Countryside Stewardship and Countryside Productivity

Your payments may be reduced if you do not follow these rules.

Preventing water pollution from your farm

You must take steps to prevent water pollution whether or not your land is in an NVZ.

Published 2 August 2018
Last updated 17 September 2021 + show all updates
  1. Removed 2017 to 2020 information and added details about appeals process 2021 to 2024

  2. Link update

  3. First published.