More must be urgently done to protect Switzerland’s drinking water, according the Swiss water and gas industry association (SSIGE). One fifth of drinking water samples analysed by the national underground water testing organisation (NAQUA), contained levels of pesticides and nitrates above acceptable levels. And 30% of measurement points, contained very high levels.
The highest concentrations were found in underground water, which supplies 80% of Swiss drinking water, mainly in areas with intensive agriculture. The phenomenon is driven by urban development and intensive use of pesticides in agriculture, estimated at around 2,000 tonnes per year, according to NAQUA.
SSIGE is calling for a ban on pesticide use in areas that could affect water.
Currently only 60% of underground water zones are designated as protected areas.
While SSIGE said that water quality had never been better in Switzerland, NAQUA’s report shows that the farming sector needs to work hard to avoid polluting water ways.
Suggested improvements include mechanical weeding and choosing more weed-resistant plants.
Other groups want to go further. Two popular votes are in the works. One calls for a blanket ban on pesticide use. The other calls for Switzerland’s generous farm subsidies to be given only to farmers who avoid using pesticides and antibiotics.
In a communiqué on 10 June 2017, the Swiss Fishing Federation said that Swiss farmers can not simultaneously receive billions of francs of public money and systematically destroy the environment, threatening both people and animals.
A Eurostat study covering much of Europe found about 7 % of the groundwater stations included reported excessive levels of one or more pesticides. Atrazine, and its partially metabolised form desethylatrazine, were the chemicals most frequently detected above the quality standard. The map below shows a few red dots, where ground water samples exceed the quality standard, in Switzerland.
Atrazine hasn’t yet achieved the notoriety of glyphosate, but as a suspected endocrine disruptor, it is probably equally deserving of it. Banned in the EU in 2003 and Switzerland in 2012, atrazine, takes a long time to break down, which is probably why the Eurostat study found it in ground water samples taken in 2010-2011.