Illegally high levels of nitrate have been in Germany’s groundwater for years and the German government is now working on a new Fertilizer Regulation
For years, the EU Commission has warned Germany about illegally high levels of nitrate in groundwater. According to EURACTIV, the European Court of Justice ruled on the issue in June. The German government is now working on a new Fertilizer Regulation. However, the groundwater is expected to remain contaminated for many more years.
According to EURACTIV, clean groundwater is an invaluable commodity, as it covers close to 70% of our drinking water. Germany’s groundwater has been evaluated as poor for many years because it contains too much nitrate.
The reason for this is that agricultural fertilization is being administered from liquid manure. The nitrate can only be taken off the ground for a limited amount of time, the rest seeps into the groundwater. According to EURACTIV, even the German Environment Ministry could not confirm any improvement of the situation in its 2016 Nitrate Report.
Compared to 2011 measurements, the amount of unspoilt waters has “barely risen”, although an improvement has been predicted. According to EURACTIV, some 28% of the measurement points exceeded the maximum permissible nitrate level.
After years of warnings, the Commission launched its case against Germany in 2016. According to EURACTIV, in June 2018, the European Court of Justice agreed with the Commission; Germany infringed the EU’s Nitrates Directive and should have adopted stronger measures a long time ago to protect its waters.
It is possible that a fine will need to be paid, according to EURACTIV. A similar judgment was made against France in 2014.
Even the newly drafted 2017 Fertilizer Regulation, under which farmers need to keep a record of the levels of liquid manure that fall onto the fields, is deemed to be insufficiently ambitious by the Commission.
“The Commission writes with a high level of detail when commenting on the Fertilisation Regulation,” said Bernhard Krüsken, farmer’s association chief, to EURACTIV. “The crazy thing is that the Commission was informed about the process this whole time. It knew all drafts of the Fertilisation Regulation. Yet, it waited until the Regulation was adopted in order to reinforce its old infringement procedure. This gives the impression that it was intentional in letting the process drive full throttle against a wall.”