14.1% of groundwater in the EU is contaminated with nitrates

Brussels, Oct 11 (EFE) .- 14.1% of groundwater in the countries of the European Union exceeds the limits of concentration of nitrates, a phenomenon that puts health, ecosystems and the economy at risk and that is noticeable especially in agricultural fertilization in several EU countries, including Spain.

“Nitrate concentrations have decreased in both surface and groundwater in the EU compared to the situation prior to the adoption of the Nitrates Directive in 1991. However, the new report reveals that little progress has been made during the last decade, “said the European Commission on Monday.

It is the main conclusion of the latest Commission report on the implementation of the Nitrates Directive, which dates back to 1991, seeks to improve water quality and constitutes one of the first legislative acts of the EU in the field of environmental protection.

Specifically, the report in question refers to the period 2016-2019, it points out that excessive fertilization of crops is one of the persistent problems in Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Finland, Hungary, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands , Poland and the Czech Republic.

Other member states such as Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, France, Italy, Portugal and Romania, Brussels adds, also have “hotspots where pollution should be urgently reduced,” the Commission added.

The water declared as eutrophic in the EU includes 81% of marine waters, 31% of coastal waters, 36% of rivers and 32% of lakes, added the Community Executive.

Although nitrogen is an essential nutrient for plant growth, its excessive concentration is detrimental to both human health and ecosystems, causing oxygen depletion and eutrophication.

Nitrates from livestock manure and mineral fertilizers, for example, have been one of the main sources of water pollution in Europe for decades.

These phenomena have “important economic impacts in terms of cleaning water for human consumption and for communities that depend on polluted waters, such as fishing and the tourism sector” according to the Commission, which estimates that “between 70,000 and 320,000 million euros per year, well beyond the costs of reducing pollution at the source. ”

The report also shows that where national authorities and farmers have cleaned up the waters, it has had “a positive impact on the supply of drinking water and biodiversity, and the sectors such as fishing and tourism that depend on them”, added the European Commission.

About half of the nitrogen from fertilizers and manure applied in Europe is lost to the surrounding environment, the EC said, adding that “it equates to a loss of potential benefits for farmers of between 13 and 65 billion euros. year”.

The Commission stressed that, “in general, the quality of national action programs has improved, but in many cases the measures in force are not effective enough to combat pollution in areas where agricultural pressure has increased.”

“The pace of change is not enough … More urgent action is needed to achieve sustainable agriculture and protect our precious water supply,” said European Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius.

Improving water quality is part of the European Commission’s Green Deal, which seeks to decarbonise the EU and improve sustainability, in particular by reducing nutrient losses by at least 50% by 2030, as far as soil is concerned. and as part of the water regulations, which require good chemical and ecological status for all water bodies by 2027 at the latest.

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