The decision taken reflects a number of weaknesses in the UK’s implementation. In particular, the UK has only applied the criteria set out in the Directive for identifying waters affected by pollution from nitrates to drinking water sources, whether surface water or ground water sources, which are affected by over-enrichment by nitrates. The criteria should be applied to all surface waters and ground waters not just those destined for human consumption.

The UK has now extended its monitoring to investigate such waters, but the additional monitoring will not be completed until 2000, several years after the Directive’s deadline. In addition, in Northern Ireland no action programmes have been established for three nitrate vulnerable zones.

The Commission says the decision underlines its determination to see the Nitrates Directive fully implemented across the EU – similar infringement proceedings are already underway against many other Member States.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie