The Quality of Groundwater: Failures of Regulations

Special Report: Water: An Assessment of the Resource
By Gérard Miquel, Jean-Claude Deutsch, Michel Meybeck, Antoine Montiel, Jean-Luc Vasel

Classically, the pollution of groundwater has three sources: industrial, domestic and agricultural. The most worrisome today are the last one. A very sensitive degradation of the quality of groundwater for drinking purpose is noticed for some years, but it is necessary to put in perspective it with regard to the quality standards. Now these are sharply too severe with regard to the problems of health service, whether it is for nitrates or pesticides. Moreover, for these last ones, the risk lies especially in métabolites. The problem of bacteriological contagion is besides neglected. In fact, this degradation leads less to a risk of health service than to the established fact of a triple failure of the public policies: that of the legal and statutory frame, that of the institutional architectures and that of the interventions.
The balance of the state of the devices of drilling in France is an illustration of that fact. It is clear that we know very badly today not only the number of drillings and their quality, but also the place of the drillings which were abandoned. Therefore, certain number of risks is incurred while we would have in theory the means to face it. These risks are qualitative: the degradation of the quality can result from the use of a former drilling as a cesspool or the accidental communication between two water table of different quality, or still of intrusion of salt water. They can be quantitative with the non-renewal of the water table by overexploitation.
Any reform in this domain has to be inspired by two imperatives: the simplicity and the efficiency.

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