The aim of the Protection of Waters against Pollution Caused by Nitrates from Agricultural Sources Regulations, which transpose the European Nitrates Directive, is to reduce water pollution caused or induced by nitrates from agricultural sources and preventing further such pollution. Nitrates are a health hazard in waters which are used as sources of drinking water, and are also nutrients which, when found in excess concentration, contribute to eutrophication of surface waters.

The legislation provides for the identification of waters polluted by nitrates from agricultural sources, and of land areas contributing to the nitrate pollution which are designated as Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs).  A code of good agricultural practice to protect waters from pollution by nitrates is to be established and implemented on a voluntary basis by farmers, while action programmes are to be established in relation to NVZs.

All of Malta was designated as a nitrate vulnerable zone in 2004, and a Code of Good Agricultural Practice (CoGAP) developed, in conjunction with the drafting of a National Nitrates Action Plan by the then Ministry for Resources and Rural Affairs in 2011.

The National Nitrates Action Plan contains measures that cover all aspects of agricultural production to reduce the levels of nitrates. It targets the contamination of both surface and ground waters from nitrates derived from both organic and inorganic fertilisers. It is codified in Maltese legislation through the Nitrates Action Programme Regulations, which reflect the legal obligations that are to be applied to all farm holdings.

More information on the implementation of the Nitrates Action Programme regulations is available from the Department for Agriculture as the entity responsible for their implementation.