"Swiss water is in a bad way."
That's not actually true. Our surface waters, groundwater and drinking water are in very good condition. Our water quality tops international rankings. There cannot be any mention of poor Swiss water quality.
Saturday, November 2, 2019
- Drinking water in Switzerland is of good quality.
- Water protection is a central priority topic in the Federal Council's national action plan on risk reduction and sustainable use of plant protection products.
- Agriculture, public authorities and industry are already working hard to continuously reduce unwanted entries. Research also makes an important contribution to making plant protection as targeted and sustainable as possible.
Water protection is rightly of great importance in Switzerland. The water quality is continuously monitored by means of a dense network of measuring points. The targets are extremely strict. Various authorities – including the Swiss Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office and the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment – consider drinking water quality to be very good in Switzerland. According to the 2019 NAQUA National groundwater Monitoring Report, only two percent of groundwater measuring points in Switzerland are above the extremely strict limit of 0.1 microgram per liter for plant protection products and their degradation products.
Limit does not say anything about risk
However, this limit value is not derived from toxicological studies. It was set when it was not possible to measure more accurately. Values above the limit do not pose a health risk. The following example illustrates how strict the limit values are: According to the European Food Safety Authority, for example, the maximum permissible daily dose of chlorothalonil is 0.015 milligram per kilogram of body weight. A person weighing 90 kilograms would have to drink 13,500 liters of water in one day to reach this level.
Many people have the impression that there are major problems with water quality. This is demonstrably wrong. Today's measuring instruments are so highly developed that they can detect a cube of sugar in Lake Constance. In many cases, only very small concentrations of pollutants, which are far below the already very strict limit values, are detected. In the headlines, these are already misinterpreted as a dangerous hazard.
Sales of pesticides declining
The public perception that drinking water quality is decreasing due to the increasing use of plant protection products in agriculture is wrong. This is also confirmed by the latest sales statistics from the Federal Government. The total amount of pesticides sold has been declining for years. Sales of plant protection products with particular risk potential have also fallen. In conventional agriculture, sales have fallen by 35 percent in the last ten years.
The correct and professional use of plant protection products is crucial for the further improvement of water quality. Erosion and leaching must be avoided. The filling, emptying and cleaning of crop protection spraying equipment must also be carried out professionally. In this respect, the suppliers of plant protection products are also providing successful support.
High quality drinking water
Water protection in Switzerland is a great success. Lakes and rivers are clean and invite you to swim. Our groundwater is also doing very well. It is important that the quality of the Swiss groundwater continues to allow the production of sufficient, perfect drinking water without any problems. 40% of the groundwater used for drinking water supply can be fed into the pipeline network without treatment. For the remaining 60%, simple disinfection is sufficient. This is a world-class figure and unthinkable in many countries (including in Europe).
The demand for regional products could hardly be greater. This is shown by a new study by the Zurich School of Business. Consumers even consider regional products to be significantly more sustainable than organic or premium products. To keep up with this trend, it is therefore all the more important to promote modern breeding techniques and plant protection products.
The reduced use of plant protection products is causing much smaller wheat and rapeseed harvests. A study carried out by Swiss Agricultural Research reveals that such crop failures can only be offset by state subsidies. This is neither sustainable nor resource-efficient.
The economic interdependence of the world has increased greatly over the past years and decades. Due to the brisk trade activity between the continents, invasive plant and animal species are also spreading faster and faster. This can lead to serious problems for native vegetation and agriculture. According to the FOEN, the canton of Ticino is particularly affected.