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Stop pollution

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Graphic elementThe facts

Stop pollutionPollution from industrial, agricultural and domestic sources has constantly reduced water quality in Europe. These negative influences lead to serious environmental imbalances within ecosystems and constitute a direct threat to public health. In spite of a reduction in the use of pesticides and fertilisers in agriculture, they are still present in the same concentrations in groundwater because of the often very long time taken by pollutants to infiltrate into groundwater. This situation is all the more worrying because the latter constitutes the reserve for two-thirds of the population of Europe and in the event of significant damage, restoration of groundwater reserves would require decades.
Waste water from industrial or urban sources also contributes to the excessive levels of phosphates and other organic compounds which are responsible for the eutrophication of surface waters. In spite of a number of European Directives which have led to a reduction in such pollution, their level is still too high in many areas.
The same is true for NOx and SO2 discharges into the atmosphere causing acid rain which affects life in the freshwater environment. In spite of regulations, the critical levels are still being exceeded in a number of regions.

Graphic elementAction

Stop pollutionIf we are to combat water pollution, agricultural, industrial and domestic effluents have to be treated and the effects of existing pollutants reduced. The whole of Europe is affected by these phenomena and it is at an international level that the solutions are to be found. Cross-border research funded by the European Union is giving the various parties involved (legislators, business circles, local authorities, public health bodies, etc.) the know-how and tools to overcome these problems.

This research covers the following:

  • the pollution mechanisms, both at the stage of the farming systems which produced them and in the natural environments;
  • the acquisition of the scientific bases needed for the drawing up of standards and for the validation and harmonisation of measurement and test methods;
  • the methods and technologies for water treatment and the restoration of polluted sites;
  • new farming techniques preventing or limiting the infiltration of pesticide and fertiliser residues into groundwater;
  • understanding of the socio-economic factors and behaviours of the various parties involved in water supply systems.

On the track of pollutants
What are the hydrogeological, physical, chemical and biological processes governing the infiltration of pollutants? What changes do they undergo before reaching groundwater? What are the effects of the management of farmland on water quality? These three questions are at the heart of a number of research projects and actions coordinated and carried out in networks with the support of the European Commission.

Stop pollution

On the scent with biosensors
On the basis of advanced biotechnological techniques, the ENVIRONSENS project is developing biosensors capable in any environment of detecting and measuring with extreme chemical precision the presence of various individual pollutants.

Quality of river water
The BINOCULARS project has developed a global approach to manage the impact of fertilisers at the level of an entire river basin. A model describing the biogeochemical functions assuring water quality has, then, been designed and tested successfully on various European basins such as the Rhine, the Seine, the Loire, the Scheldt and the Aliakmon (Greece).

Stop pollution

Sensitivity of mountain lakes
The only pollutants likely to affect mountain lakes are airborne. The ALPE/MOLAR project monitors the responses of these isolated ecosystems which are veritable barometers not only of the level of atmospheric pollution but also of climate changes.

 
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