Water quality and agriculture

Agriculture is besides others important source of water pollution with plant nutrients, nitrogen and phosphorus.

This leads to eutrophication of the water bodies. The signs of eutrophic water bodies, what everyone can see, are rapid growth of water plants and algae blooms. As a result, this process influences the living conditions of water organisms.

To avoid or reduce the influence of agriculture it is important to reduce losses of nutrients to water from livestock and crop production. It means reduction losses of nitrates and phosphorus from farmland and agricultural point sources.

In Estonia the main legal act, regulating water protection is Water Act with its secondary decrees.

This legal act implements EU Nitrates Directive (91/676/EEC) and Water Framework directive (2000/60/EC) in Estonia.


Water Act sets down main water protection rules for agriculture, like manure and chemical fertilizers management and use, requirements for animal husbandry etc. Secondary decrees establish more detailed technical requirements for water protection. In addition, action programmes, like River Basin Management Plans and Nitrates Action Program (NAP) are launched according to Water Act.

NAP 2016 – 2020 (current)

NAP 2011 – 2015

NAP describes measures, both obligatory and voluntary, what farmers should follow to reduce the pollution load to water environment, as well as actions for public authorities and supervising bodies.

Nitrates Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) in Estonia was determined taking into account soil and ground conditions, ground and surface water vulnerability as well as intensity of agriculture. Total area of the NVZ is 3250 km2 which is 7,5 % of the total land area 43 200 km2.





Last updated: 22 March 2018

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