Quality of groundwater

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"Accidents can never be completely ruled out"

A government report shows that the cleanliness of our groundwater is endangered. As a result, the groundwater at certain places in Switzerland and thus also our drinking water is not adequately protected.

The main reason is the growing urban area when buildings, railways or roads have been built near the drinking water reserves. But the agricultural sector also has a certain duty. It is jointly responsible for the contamination in the drinking water. What does the President of the Swiss Farmers' Association Markus Ritter have to say about it all?

SRF News: The agricultural sector is jointly responsible for the contamination in the drinking water. How do you see this?

Markus Ritter: There is always a residual risk. But the requirements have been selected so that risks are ruled out as far as possible. The agricultural sector offers to contribute its share so that the drinking water is of a very high quality. It is very important that these protection zones are observed and their regulations are followed.

Nevertheless: In January 2018 a groundwater pumping station in Rapperswil-Jona had to be taken offline because a farmer disposed of manure in a nature reserve and a stream. The rules were broken here certainly?

It is obvious such incidents should not occur. It definitely wasn't intentional, it was an accident. And accidents can never be completely ruled out. It is therefore important that there are also appropriate emergency plans in place for such scenarios so that the water can be taken offline immediately and that other water resources can be accessed. I was personally responsible for the water supply in our company for twelve years and also had emergency plans in place.

"It is important to explain to the party concerned what they must observe when a corresponding source or groundwater is eliminated as a protection zone."

When it comes to defining new protection zones there is also often resistance from the agricultural sector. The farmers fear they will not be able to farm the land as well. Are the (agricultural) economic interests rated higher here than the protection of the drinking water?

The decree of protection zones is quite a complex matter. Our municipality was at a decree of over 10 source-groundwater protection zones. It is important to explain to the party concerned what they must observe when a corresponding source or groundwater is defined as a protection zone. This also includes restrictions in the management, that's the way it is. Corresponding approaches to compensation have been suggested.

Bafu appeals not only to you as a representative of Swiss farmers, but also as National Council. What are you doing specifically to better protect the drinking water?

The decisive thing is that we implement the existing statutory regulations in the Water Protection Act, the Water Protection Ordinance.

Jonathan Fisch conducted the interview.

SRF, Quality of groundwater, "Accidents can never be completely ruled out“: https://www.srf.ch/news/schweiz/qualitaet-des-grundwassers-unfaelle-sind-nie-ganz-auszuschliessen , Retrieved  25.06.2019.

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