Many EU countries have a problem with polluted groundwater. According to a recent report, 25 % of ground water bodies in the European Union (and e.g. 36 % in Germany) were chemically in a poor status in 2015, mostly due to pollution with nitrates and pesticides from agriculture. Moreover, and contrary to the objectives laid down in the EU Water Framework Directive, the total groundwater body area with an identified upward trend of pollution is still nearly double the area with a trend reversal (9.9 % against 5.9 % of area).
As the EU-wide network of environmental authorities, IMPEL decided in 2019 to look for methods and best practice examples at working level how to reduce pollution and reverse the negative trend. The start of the project “Trend reversal in groundwater pollution” , part of the IMPEL Water and Land expertise, was considerably delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic but now, with an online meeting on 22 October 2020, the activities have officially started. With Germany as project leader and participants from Denmark, Estonia, Italy, Malta, Romania, Spain and the United Kingdom, the project is designed to investigate problems and possible solutions in a range of diverse European countries. Specific attention will be paid to the balance between financial incentives and voluntary agreements with farmers on the one hand, and the role of binding rules, inspections and sanctions on the other, plus possibly the involvement of water suppliers, NGOs and the general public.
In a first round, a survey with questionnaires is now ongoing, in order to gather information about the trends and best practices in participant countries. This basis should be supplemented by discussions between experts with a background in hydrology, agriculture and water administration. To this end, the project group plans an expert workshop in September 2021, if possible as a face-to-face event or alternatively as an online conference. The results of the survey and the discussions will feed into an IMPEL guidance document which should be finalized by the end of 2021 and is meant to contain short case studies as well as a number of recommendations on how to achieve a “trend reversal” in practice.