06 December 2017
A partnership between government and farmers to improve Jersey’s water quality is making a difference, the latest figures show.
The Department of the Environment and Jersey Water have been working with the farming industry through the ‘Action for Cleaner Water Group’ for some time to improve the water quality of reservoirs, streams and other water sources in Jersey by reducing fertiliser and pesticide use.
Earlier this year, they committed to a package of measures under a five-year Water Management Plan, which aims to tackle water quality in Jersey.
- a drop in the level of nitrate in streams and other water sources by approximately one milligram a year, from a 1994 peak in the Island average of 68 milligrams per litre to around 43 mg per litre this year, with some early evidence that levels have begun to fall more quickly over the past two years
- a consistent decline in the permitted levels of nitrate in the mains water supply (the maximum allowed is 50 mg per litre and the highest level this year was 36 mg per litre)
- no breach of the permitted maximum level of nitrates in mains water for four years – meaning a dispensation* granted to Jersey Water hasn’t been used
The Minister for the Environment said ‘These figures show we’re on the right track and directly reflect the willingness of farmers to treat the issue of water quality in Jersey with the seriousness it deserves. I’m grateful to them and hope this partnership will continue.
I expect this positive trend to continue as the Water Management Plan, the Rural Economy linked LEAF marque scheme and further measures agreed to reduce fertiliser use this season, all take effect.
‘However, there’s no room for complacency. We’re still dealing with the consequences of poor practice in relation to pesticide use from many years ago so there’s still a way to go and I will continue to push for results on this issue.’
The farming industry will continue to reduce and better target pesticide and fertiliser use this season. The two main Jersey Royal Potato companies will plant a sizeable portion of their land using precision application machinery. This means fertiliser is only placed next to the potato – where it is needed and not elsewhere in the field or on headlands.
Following closer study of how pesticides work in local conditions, procedures have been updated so that some pesticide products can no longer be used in the most important ‘red’ water catchment areas of Queen’s Valley, Val de la Mare reservoir, and Handois.
Handois has been recently added to the ‘red’ catchment zone following farmers’ agreement at a recent Action for Cleaner Water Group meeting. Controls are much stricter in ‘red’ catchments because of the potential impact on water supplies.
Changes to other guidelines, also accepted by Jersey farmers, mean that the recommended amount of nitrogen fertiliser used for Jersey Royal potatoes will be reduced.
Work on drafting new, tighter regulations recommended under the Water Management Plan for Jersey 2017-2021 continues. Next year, the Minister for the Environment will, following consultation, set new water quality objectives for pesticide and nitrogen levels in law under provisions of the Water Pollution (Jersey) Law, 2000. Deputy Luce will also set some regulatory best practice standards for certain activities, such as the storage, application and management of fertilisers.
These measures are in line with the Council of Minister’s strategic focus on critical environmental resources and the benefits of adopting environmental management principles to help improve productivity and efficiency.