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Environmental Quality Standards: Parliament backs polluter-pays principle but endangers aquifer recharge

Today's vote could mean better transparency for consumers but possible undermining of scarcity measures in aquifier recharge

The European Parliament has adopted its position on a new law amending environmental quality standards (EQS) for surface water and groundwater, with amendments that strengthen the polluter-pays and control-at-source principles through an explicit hierarchy of measures. MEPs also chose to increase transparency for water services and citizens by making pollutant inventories public for each river basin. EurEau reiterates its support for these measures, including the introduction of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) to cover the costs of monitoring under the Groundwater Directive (GWD) and the Environmental Quality Standards Directive (EQSD).

However we are concerned by the insertion of a general rule for groundwater EQS to be 10 times lower than their surface water equivalent. While we support the intention of ensuring the best possible protection for groundwater quality, this blanket rule could have unintended negative consequences for practices such as managed aquifer recharge or irrigation using reclaimed wastewater, which are necessary to combat water scarcity and adapt to the effects of climate change. For some very persistent substances, even rainwater might not always comply with such levels, due to existing pollution. 

While we support the protection of Europe's groundwater resources from pollution, particularly when used for drinking water supply, this cannot be achieved without strong control-at-source measures beyond the scope of this text.

We call upon the co-legislators to agree on a more workable solution, taking into account the specific characteristics of each substance.

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