Protecting drinking water from farm pollutants
An EU-funded study is exploring agricultural practices and EU policies related to drinking water quality and the use of pesticides and nitrogen. Results will inform an integrated EU response to a major environmental and health challenge.
© licvin #205028769, 2018. Source: fotolia.com
Safe drinking water is vital for human health. Pesticides and nutrient loading from agriculture pose a huge challenge to meeting EU drinking water quality targets and UN sustainability goals, including clean water and sanitation.
Pesticides and nitrate can infiltrate soils and groundwater and end up in the water we drink. The effects of pesticides on human health depend on the toxicity of the chemical and the extent of exposure.
The EU-funded FAIRWAY project is reviewing current approaches to protecting drinking water resources from pesticide and nitrate pollution. It aims to develop consistent policies and innovative practices for all Member States to enhance sustainable agriculture.
FAIRWAYs consortium is deliberately made up of diverse researchers, farm advisers and consultancies. They are applying their expertise to 13 case studies in 11 different EU countries.
Scaling up for maximum impact
The cases range from surface and groundwater studies testing for nitrate and pesticide levels along the Axios river in Greece to groundwater-only studies of salt and nitrate loads on the Danish island of Tunø.
What are the main issues concerning EU drinking water regulations? What changes are needed to better protect waterways against nitrates and pesticides from EU agriculture? How can the EU-wide system be improved, and what sort of integrated scientific support for EU policy is needed to tackle these concerns?
The four-year project seeks to answer these questions, exploring how to better integrate scientific findings into coherent EU policies.
More data will lead to a better understanding of the social, technical and economic barriers to implementing proposed measures. This is key to ensuring wider uptake of the findings, according to the project team.
Successful practices resulting from the project case studies and workshops are expected to increase awareness and involvement among farmers, as well as those responsible for monitoring and managing water supplies.