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Since 500 priority abstractions were listed in 2009, the protection of drinking-water abstractions from nonpoint-source pollution (notably from farms) has made considerable progress. R&D efforts, with support from Onema, have resulted in a complete set of protection tools. In the field, the initial action plans are now being set up.

photo Laurent Mignaux - METL/MEDDE

The protection of abstraction supply zones (ASZ) for drinking water is a major health and ecological issue that was declared an absolute priority during the last Environmental conference. Regulations have required, since 2009, when 507 "Grenelle", i.e. priority ASZs were listed, that action plans for the ASZs be launched starting in 2012. In response, Onema has funded numerous studies to design the necessary methods and techniques for local governments, ranging from setting an ASZ perimeter to understanding pollutant transfers within the ASZ, from drafting suitable action plans to defining the social-economic measures accompanying local implementation of the plan. A progress report was presented during the symposium on the management of nonpoint-source pollution from farms, organised by Onema and Astee in September.

Reduce inputs and limit transfers

An array of tools are now available. Several methods guides, published by BRGM, Irstea and INRA, with support from the Ecology and Agriculture ministries and Onema, explain how to run the initial assessment on pressures, to set up the ASZ perimeter and to map vulnerabilities. These assessment methods and tools should be of great value in selecting the most beneficial action plans. A diverse set of techniques has been identified to reduce the pressure exerted by inputs, e.g. modifications to cropping plans, shifting to mechanical weeding, crop rotation, exchanges of fields between farmers, etc., and to limit the transfer of contaminants, depending on the targeted transfer path, e.g. the creation of buffer zones, ploughing according to contour lines, modifications to spraying equipment, etc. Following the assessment phase, the Co-Click'Eau tool, developed by INRA as part of the Ecophyto programme with funding from Onema, provides an innovative, integrated approach capable of setting up scenarios with stakeholders, including an on-line simulation tool for the scenarios, and of preparing concrete projects listing the targeted results.

All of the tools and methods developed by the Onema partners and coordinated by the national technical group for ASZ protection are accessible on the internet site

Necessary monitoring of action plans

The action plans to protect the priority ASZs are now being set up in the field. As of last September, the studies on setting ASZ perimeters had been terminated for 458 sites (86%). The drafting of the action plan itself had been finished for 219 ASZs and was still under way for another 156. Given the often complex local situations, rigorous monitoring of their implementation is required and a set of quantitative indicators is available (the result of a BRGM/Onema study) to assess the results of the action plans. A number of real successes have been scored in certain cases, particularly concerning nitrates. Efforts will not only be continued, but will be enhanced because the last Environmental conference added another 500 abstractions to the list of priority ASZs.

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