Water law: the important thing is to believe in it ...
"Water is life. The objective of this bill is that within ten years we will have water of total quality (sic) in nature. ” The Minister of Ecology yesterday presented his water law to the Council of Ministers. And he is so satisfied with it that he paints an idyllic picture of its effects: “This will allow us to have waterways that are both ecological and alive, rich in fish, and cheaper drinking water. And then we will be able to find leisure activities such as swimming in our rivers. ” No article of this law seriously tackles the problem of diffuse pollution, such as nitrates. For Serge Lepeltier, the reform of the CAP (common agricultural policy) will take care of it. The consumer association UFC-Que Choisir believes that the law enshrines the principle of the “polluted pays”.
Water bill spares farmers and irritates environmentalists
by Hervé Kempf
The water bill presented by the Minister of Ecology and Sustainable Development, Serge Lepeltier, to the Council of Ministers on March 9, angered environmentalists and satisfied farmers.
The challenge: how to ensure fair penalties for aquatic pollution? Farmers are responsible, through their discharges of fertilizers and pesticides, for most of the pollution of French rivers and groundwater, but only pay a minimal portion of the fees to the water agencies.
However, water quality is not improving: according to the French Institute for the Environment (IFEN), pesticides are present in 80% of surface water stations and in 57% of water stations. underground, while in almost half of the territory the water nitrate concentration exceeds 40 milligrams per liter - the sanitary limit is 50 milligrams. This situation has earned France five convictions by the European Court of Justice for non-compliance with Community texts.
The bill proposes to reorganize the water management system and to modify the royalty regime. As it stands, the text operates a grooming more than a radical change. Listing many technical provisions, it aims not to rush the agricultural world, confirming the choice made in the summer of 2004.
In July, Hervé Gaymard, then Minister of Agriculture, told Ouest-France that “the Prime Minister, confirming the position of the President of the Republic, handed down his arbitration: there will be no new tax levied on Farmers ".
This is because the preliminary draft of the time still envisaged extending to intensive crops a "breeding fee", paid by the largest breeders (water nitrates are due to animal droppings, but also to widespread fertilizers. on crops).
"The polluter pays principle will remain largely unapplied, deplores the association Eaux et Rivières de Bretagne. Consumers will continue to provide 85% of the budget of water agencies, agriculture, which consumes chemical fertilizers and produces slurry, supporting only 4%. "
For its part, the consumer association UFC-Que Choisir “is indignant that after years of consultation the government chooses the path of immobility. The UFC-Que Choisir calls for a complete overhaul of the water agency fee system which must oblige the polluter to finance the pollution of which he is the author ”.
On the agricultural side, the perception is different. "This project is balanced," says Pascal Ferey, for the FNSEA (National Federation of Farmers' Unions). It does not penalize anyone but makes all the actors responsible. "According to Mr. Ferey," we must recognize that alongside the polluter pays principle, there is the farmer-protector principle ", the cultivation of land allowing the maintenance of landscapes.
A point of view confirmed by the deputy (UMP) Jean-Claude Flory, author of a report on water charges: “It all depends on the places. For example, in Ardèche, farmers do not pollute, but on the contrary play a very positive role against flooding, by stopping erosion and runoff. "
Another point of the project satisfies the farmers by favoring, half-heartedly, the creation of hill reservoirs to facilitate irrigation. This practice is synonymous with waste for environmentalists. The Senate will begin debating the text in April.