Reducing water pollution is essentially the application of good practice by water users and the aquatic environment throughout the catchment area. The objectives are manifold: to encourage the least polluting activities, to improve use to reduce the amount of substances used or discharged, but also to capture the flows of pollutants within the catchment area.
Perform water purification before direct discharge
Direct discharge of wastewater into the environment is prohibited: the wastewater must be treated in order to remove the pollutants it contains. The residual quantities after treatment must be small enough to be eliminated by self-purification of the environment (usually rivers). The division into sanitary zones defines the areas where this treatment is part of collective or non-collective sanitation (find out more about sanitation).
In collective sanitation zones, the collection and treatment of wastewater is carried out by the community: this includes the installation of “everything to the sewerage system”, transporting the water to a treatment plant (called a wastewater treatment plant), its treatment, and then discharge into the environment. Flats located in collective sewerage areas are required to be connected to the sewerage system.
In order to protect the environment to which water is discharged after treatment, the European Urban Waste Water Directive (find out more about the ERU Directive) imposes minimum treatment capacities. The capacity of wastewater treatment plants is monitored by the Water Police (find out more about the Water Police).
In non-collective sanitary areas, apartments are not served by the public sewage system. They have to be treated by private persons with dedicated equipment: a tank for all water (formerly a “septic tank”), a Microstation, a plant filter, etc. National regulations specify the treatment capacity to be observed as well as a list of approved facilities.
In addition to this, local regulations are also laid down through the SPANC (public, not collective sanitation service) regulations. It is also SPANC that carries out compliance checks on installations for private individuals.
Reduce the use of Phytosanitary products
Reducing the amount of phytosanitary products used is the first way to combat diffuse water pollution. This is the aim of the Ecophyto plan, which aims to reduce pesticide use by 50% between 2015 and 2025 (according to the ministry responsible for ecology).
It is, therefore, necessary to apply existing technical solutions to reduce the use of pesticides more widely: biological control (use of natural pest predators), better prediction of diseases and pest attacks, physical processes such as mechanical weeding, etc.
The Ecophyto plan also aims to accompany the evolution of agricultural practices that require fewer phytosanitary products: integrated farming, etc. Some practices even make it possible to completely eliminate the use of these substances, such as organic farming.
Furthermore, training of salesmen, agricultural advisors and farmers in the correct use of pesticides is now mandatory, thanks to the Certiphyto certificate.
This certificate is required for the purchase and use of these products and follows the training to learn how to use them in a reasonable way.
At the same time, in order to protect human health and water quality, regulations gradually limit the use of pesticides by communities and individuals. Since 2017, their use in green areas has been banned and they are no longer available for self-service purchases. From 1 January 2019, their use will no longer be allowed for private individuals.