Millions living in rural France ‘are drinking polluted tap water’

Nearly three million French people are drinking polluted tap water, according to a new study and most of them live in rural areas.

Millions living in rural France 'are drinking polluted tap water'
Photo: AFP
French consumers group UFC Que Choisir published a report on Thursday that revealed 2.8 million French people were drinking polluted tap water.
The report came with an interactive map, which showed that while 96 percent of those in France can rest assured that their tap water is fine (particularly so in big cities), it's not the same story for everyone. 
The interactive map allows users to search for their town, then get information on their water quality ranging from good to very bad (see example below).
The most affected areas are in areas of intense agriculture in rural France, where pesticides and nitrates have got into the water supplies.
The south west and north central regions of France were especially bad, both areas with a lot of agriculture (see map in embedded tweet below).
Nitrates were found in the water systems of around 200,000 consumers, particularly in Loiret, Seine-et-Marne, Yonne, Aube, Marne, Pas-de-Calais and Somme.
Around three percent of households have polluted tap water due to the presence of lead, copper, or nickel from corroded pipes, the report found. 
UFC Que Choisir pointed out that drinking tap water was 65 times cheaper than buying bottled water in France, and urged the government to consider “a fundamental reform of the agricultural water policy”. 
It also urged the government to launch an investigation into the nation's water lines, and to help anyone that might be affected by aged and corroded pipes. 
The group's president Alain Bazot said that one in five people in France don't trust their tap water, and one in two prefers bottled water.

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Greenpeace sounds alarm over Spain’s ‘poisonous mega farms’

The “uncontrolled” growth of industrial farming of livestock and poultry in Spain is causing water pollution from nitrates to soar, Greenpeace warned in a new report on Thursday.

Greenpeace sounds alarm over Spain's 'poisonous mega farms'
Pollution from hundreds of intensive pig farms played a major role in the collapse of Murcia Mar Menor saltwater lagoon. Photo: JOSEP LAGO / AFP

The number of farm animals raised in Spain has jumped by more than a third since 2015 to around 560 million in 2020, it said in the report entitled “Mega farms, poison for rural Spain”.

This “excessive and uncontrolled expansion of industrial animal farming” has had a “serious impact on water pollution from nitrates”, it said.

Three-quarters of Spain’s water tables have seen pollution from nitrates increase between 2016 and 2019, the report said citing Spanish government figures.

Nearly 29 percent of the country’s water tables had more than the amount of nitrate considered safe for drinking, according to a survey carried out by Greenpeace across Spain between April and September.

The environmental group said the government was not doing enough.

It pointed out that the amount of land deemed an “area vulnerable to nitrates” has risen to 12 million hectares in 2021, or 24 percent of Spain’s land mass, from around eight million hectares a decade ago, yet industrial farming has continued to grow.

“It is paradoxical to declare more and more areas vulnerable to nitrates”, but at the same time allow a “disproportionate rise” in the number of livestock on farms, Greenpeace said.

Pollution from hundreds of intensive pig farms played a major role in the collapse of one of Europe’s largest saltwater lagoons, the Mar Menor in Spain’s southeast, according to a media investigation published earlier this week.

Scientists blamed decades of nitrate-laden runoffs for triggering vast blooms of algae that had depleted the water of the lagoon of oxygen, leaving fish suffocating underwater.

Two environmental groups submitted a formal complaint in early October to the European Union over Spain’s failure to protect the lagoon.