The agricultural industry has been one of the principal contributors to a number of serious water quality problems that currently affect the groundwaters, rivers and lakes of Northern Ireland. The largest and most widespread of these is nutrient enrichment, which results in a phenomenon known as eutrophication. This causes accelerated growth of algae, excessive plant growth and consequential reduction in oxygen levels. The 1991 Nitrates Directive by the European Commission was intended to improve the use of nutrients on farms and result in improved water quality. The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) introduced the Farm Nutrient Management Scheme (FNMS) in 2005 which was completed in December 2009. But the Scheme was poorly planned and badly managed. As a result, it cost many millions of pounds more than should have been necessary to ensure compliance. Combined with the fundamental uncertainty over the extent to which the Scheme is actually contributing to the improvement of Northern Ireland's water quality, the Committee can only conclude that the Scheme provided poor value for taxpayers' money.Contrary to best practice, the Department failed to set performance measures and targets for the Scheme. It also failed to set up a performance information database at the outset. The Department must ensure that all of its programmes have effective data systems built in from the start. The Committee felt that a much-reduced Scheme, specifically targeting those areas where eutrophication problems were greatest, might have proved a more cost-effective option. The Committee makes 12 recommendations.