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Significant victory on pesticides for DANVA

The Minister of Environment and Food of Denmark Jacob Ellemann-Jensen has entered into an agreement with the parties to the Pesticide Strategy to ban the use of pesticides in all drinking water well vicinity protection zones.

It is hoped that this agreement will finally cap off the work that started with the 2013 ‘300 Meter Committee’ report. Implementation of pesticide free areas will significantly enhance the protection of our drinking water supply so that in future, we will avoid much of the contamination that would otherwise have affected the drinking water in Denmark.

The agreement provides a time frame of 3 years for municipalities to work out arrangements with land owners to cease using pesticides near drinking water extraction wells. In the absence of such voluntary arrangements, the municipalities are required to issue a ban on all use of pesticides.

Specifically, each municipality is to collaborate with the land owner and the local water utility in an assessment whether the water extraction well should be maintained or whether it makes sense to move it to a more suitable location. Should it be decided to maintain the well, one of three options must be selected: 1) Pesticide free agriculture, 2) cessation of growing operations, or 3) purchase of the land.

Compensation will be provided to the land owner in the form of a one time reimbursement payment under conditions similar to expropriation such that the land owner is granted exemption from taxation. In the event of a disagreement, the reimbursement will be made in the form of an annual payment.

A land area of 12,000 hectares is expected to be covered by the agreement in that well vicinity protection zones will be adapted to the configuration of crop fields. It is assumed that 50% of the land will be purchased. Of the remaining 50%, 25% is expected to be covered by a ban on agriculture while 75% will be converted to pesticide free operations. The compensation for those three outcomes is estimated at DKK 45,000 and 100,000 and 150,000 per hectare respectively. Thus, the total compensation is expected to reach approximately DKK 1.25 billion.

So far, no final funding plan has been developed, but one key element is that the municipal water rates will finance the compensation. The scheme will be equitable so that the cost will be allocated across the total water consumption. Hence, if the compensation is financed over a 10-year loan period, the water rate will rise by DKK 0.43 per m3; a 20-year amortization would lower that increase to DKK 0.22 per m3.

The agreement now triggers extensive work to detail the specific regulations. Hence a concrete legislative proposal is not expected to be passed in Parliament until the fall of 2019. This allows the municipalities to initiate work on the specific protection measures during 2020-2022, after which time all well vicinity protection zones must be pesticide free.

OVERVIEW: Initiatives to protect drinking water from pesticides
1. A ban on pesticide use in well vicinity protection zones

• There is to be no more pesticide use in well vicinity protection zones. These areas are close to water extraction wells and therefore have an increased risk of pesticide contamination.

• The number of well vicinity protection zones is calculated at 5,500 drill sites supplying water to water utilities. The total area is just under 22,000 hectares or 219 km2 (twice the area of the island of Samsø). Crop fields amount to 9,500 hectares or 43% of the total well vicinity protection zone area.

• The agreement tasks the municipalities with reviewing the well vicinity protection zones in order to secure the drinking water supply by purchasing land or issuing pesticide bans.

• Land owners are compensated for their lost income, and consumers fund this compensation via the municipal water rates. Consumers will see their water bills increase by DKK 8-12 per year for an average household.

• Should the municipalities fail to secure the well vicinity protection zones to a sufficient extent within three years, a general pesticide ban will be implemented.

2. Screening of drinking water with respect to a larger number of substances

• The recommendations issued by the Water Panel with respect to screening of drinking water to detect pesticides and pesticide residues will be followed, and the Water Panel Working Group will be set up as a permanent forum for ongoing assessment of the need for adding new substances to the inventory used by the groundwater monitoring program and the drilling well control program.

• In the case of several hundred substances, screening will commence this year. In the case of other substances, testing methods are still to be developed.

• The government has set aside DKK 9 million per year for this work during 2019-2022.

• Should the screenings indicate that some substances are present in groundwater above the maximum levels, one option is to mandate that waterworks test for such substances in the drinking water.

• The Water Panel Working Group is currently composed of the National Association of Local Authorities in Denmark, Danish Regions, the Danish Society for Water and Wastewater, Danish Waterworks, the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, the Danish Patient Safety Authority, and the Danish Environmental Protection Agency.

3. Ban on the sale of concentrated pesticides to consumers

• A total ban on the sale of most concentrated pesticides to consumers will be implemented. Low-risk concentrated products such as pelargonic acid will still be available for retail purchase. Consumers will therefore still be able to buy ready-to-use products with dosage control and protection against spills and contact with skin.

• The ban takes effect on 1 July 2020. After that date, only persons authorized as professional users (at a minimum using portable and hand operated sprayers) will be able to purchase concentrated pesticides.

4. Efforts to promote sustainable use of pesticides

• The goal is to reduce the use of pesticides and thus the risk that weeds and pests develop resistance. The effort is supported by an allocation of DKK 5 million per year during 2020-2022 for a total allocation of DKK 21.5 million.

• A new requirement will be imposed on farmers to document their adherence to the principles of Integrated Pest Management within the framework of good farming practice.

• A new resistance action plan is intended to contribute to the prevention of resistance (including a review of crop rotations and the like).

• The partnership for precision technology in spraying is to be strengthened so as to enable the launch of additional projects.

pdf Political Agreement on pesticides Denmark (593 KB)

14 January 2019

By Karsten Bjørno and Claus Vangsgaard, DANVA

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