Nitrate pollution is down across the European Union, showing new legislation is ‘proving effective’, according to the European Commission which believes that new rules cracking down on the agricultural use of nitrates through improved fertiliser management in the Nitrates Directive is behind the fall.
Nitrate is commonly used in farming but is potentially hazardous to human health and can often pollute water near crops. Between 2004 and 2007, nitrate concentrations in surface water, including rivers, lakes and canals, remained stable or fell at 70 per cent of monitored sites.
However, according to the report, 15 per cent of groundwater monitoring stations and three per cent of surface stations found nitrate concentrations above the water quality standard of 50 mg/l. Particularly high concentrations on the pollution were found in surface waters in Malta, England, Belgium (Flanders) and France (Brittany).
Environment commissioner Janez Potocnik said: “Safeguarding water quality is a top priority for European environment policy. Farmers have worked hard to improve fertilisation management, which is now yielding benefits and improving water quality trends.
“However, in some regions, meeting EU water quality standards remains a serious and continuing challenge.”
While nitrates are a vital nutrient to help plants and crops grow, high concentrations are harmful to people and nature.