Groundwater under agriculture is increasingly under pressure 2

Groundwater under agriculture is increasingly under pressure

  • About 15 percent of the measuring points show nitrate loading above the limit value.
  • This shows the latest report from the Federal Environment Office (Bafu) on the quality of Swiss groundwater.
  • Rising pollution mainly comes from agriculture in Mittelland.

Drinking water is not in danger, but "everything is under pressure," Naafin said in a report released by Bafu on the state of groundwater. The fact that Switzerland uses only about 7 percent of theoretically useful groundwater for drinking water supply should not lead to negligence, the conclusion is. In Jurassic and Alpine regions the loads are lower and the quality is relatively close to nature.

Naqua Report

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Naqua National Groundwater Observation , The link opens in a new windowis a joint monitoring program for the Confederation and the Cantons, which records the quantity and quality of groundwater at around 600 measurement sites across the country.

The report is based on data from 2007 to 2016. Samples originate from more than 600 National Groundwater Monitoring (Naqua) sites. Groundwater supplies 80 percent of the drinking water consumed in Switzerland.

Decomposition products almost everywhere in Mittelland

In addition to nitrate contamination due to excessive fertilization, pesticides (pesticides and biocides) and their degradation products, the so-called metabolites, are also a problem. Every other measuring point (53 percent) contained such active substances. In agricultural fields, they can be detected at 95 percent of measuring points, so almost all. The starting material of the plant protection product is very rare and not every decomposition product is important for drinking water.

Volatile halogenated hydrocarbons (FHKW) were detected at every fourth measuring point, with a limit of one milligram per liter exceeded at 3 percent of measurement points. FHKWs are often attached to contaminated sites or come from solvents.

Simply contaminate contaminated water

In 2017, the chlorothalonil fungicide or its degradation product was also unequivocally identified for the first time, as Ronald Kozel, interim head of the Bafu Hydrology Department, explained to the media. EU funds have not been approved since the end of 2018. In Switzerland, it is currently under review by the Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG). Revocation is expected in the fall.

The antifungal agent poses major problems for suppliers because there is still no reliable method of treatment, Kozel said. Groundwater contaminated with chlorothalonil has so far been removed only by mixing with unloaded water. Or have you completely given up on such groundwater intake.

Very low concentrations of drugs such as antibiotics or X-ray contrast agents were found in 13 percent of the sites.

Farmers Association struggles

For farmers, the report received fierce responses. Martin Rufer of the Swiss Farmers Association criticizes the cadence of the report. Naqua estimates would be based on data from 2016 and earlier.

However, since the beginning of 2017, the National Plant Protection Products Action Plan has been in effect, Rufer said. This action plan included 51 points for reducing pesticide use in agriculture.

SRF scientific editor Thomas Häusler says, "There is certainly a reason why farmers are in focus." In addition, the data collected clearly show that these areas were largely influenced by excessive levels of pesticides, where it also engaged in intensive agriculture.

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