22 February 2017
The first water quality tests of the 2017 growing season show that levels of pesticides in untreated water are similar to those recorded last year.
Testing of water continues all year round, but these are the first results since farmers started planting potatoes for the new season.
Oxadixyl levels are similar to those recorded at this time last year. This chemical, last used in 2003, was detected in 2016 throughout Jersey's untreated water sources.
Recent monitoring has also picked up azoxystrobin, metribuzin and glyphosate. It is too soon to tell if this is a one-off occurrence. However, it's a reminder that farmers need to be vigilant – sudden rainfall can quickly wash chemicals off the ground and into water.
A body established last year to work for improved water quality – the Action for Cleaner Water Group – will continue to support a package of measures put in place to improve Island water quality, and particularly, to reduce the levels of pesticides in Island water courses during the current potato season.
- an immediate ban on the sale and distribution of all plant protection products containing the active ingredient linuron (detected in Jersey waters, including Val de la Mare reservoir, on a number of occasions last year)
- new regulations to be introduced to address land management practices that can cause water pollution
- tighter controls by farmers on pesticide use in certain sensitive areas, such as Val de la Mare and Queen's Valley
- farmers using less fertiliser (with a lower phosphate content)
- targeted use of less harmful pesticides by farmers
- expanding areas for trials (such as the use of slow-release fertiliser)
- the introduction of new machinery to provide more precise application of pesticides and fertiliser
- a new five-year water management strategy and updated rural economy strategy published by the Department of the Environment to reduce nitrate, phosphate and pesticides in groundwater, streams and reservoirs
- regular monitoring of Island streams and reservoirs by Jersey Water to establish long-term trends and to enable the company to blend water from differing sources in order to keep water below the legal limit and safe for the consumer.
The Minister for the Environment, Deputy Steve Luce said "I'll be keeping a watchful eye on the water quality test results over the coming weeks because I'm determined to see an improvement in water quality this year. The Department of the Environment has made meaningful progress on a number of longer-term initiatives to clean up our water, and over the winter we've worked with Jersey Water and the farming and leisure amenity industries on some shorter-term measures to reduce the level of chemicals in untreated water sources. We're not there yet, but I would hope that we'll see the benefits of this work coming through soon."
Last year, the level of oxadixyl in streams and reservoirs remained below the revised World Health Organization (WHO) advisory health limit for oxadixyl of 30 micrograms per litre (ug/l). Environmental Protection officers from the Department of the Environment have monitored the levels of oxadixyl in private water supplies and all tests show they remain well below the current advisory WHO-based health limit.
The Action for Cleaner Water Group includes representatives from the Department of the Environment, the potato and dairy industries and officers from Jersey Water and the Department for Infrastructure. The group replaced the Nitrate Working Group.
Jersey's drinking water limit for pesticides is based on the EU level guideline standard of 0.1 micrograms per litre (ug/l). The revised WHO advisory health limit for oxadixyl is 30 ug/l because the intake of oxadixyl through food is limited.
The Water (Jersey) Law 1972 requires Jersey mains drinking water to contain no more than 0.5 ug/l of pesticides overall and no more than 0.1ug/l of any one pesticide. It is based on a policy position that pesticides should not be present in drinking water. The 0.1ug/l is not a health-based limit.
Testing for oxadixyl in boreholes is available from the States Analyst at Pier Road at a cost of £40 per sample.
Water management plan
The Water Management Plan 2017-2021 sets out the steps the Island needs to take to ensure clean and sustainable water supplies. It builds on an assessment of the condition of Jersey's water and the pressures on it. The overall aim of the five-year plan is to ensure better water and improve the quality of the island's water resources (streams, ponds, reservoirs) from 'moderate' to 'good' status. The plan is linked to the States Strategic objective to improve health and wellbeing.