Eight key actions in EU Soil Monitoring Act require inclusion of groundwater protection

European soil strategy: healthy soils by 2050

KWR identified eight key actions in the European Soil Strategy that urge the inclusion of groundwater protection. This was prompted by the observation that groundwater was not well covered in this strategy and needed to be better embedded in new legislation. The key actions were not included in the first European Soil Monitoring Law, as presented on July 5th by EU Vice-President Frans Timmermans and EU Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius. The law aims to achieve healthy soil by 2050 to avoid harm to humans and the environment.

Groundwater is an essential source of drinking water. In the Netherlands, 60 per cent of drinking water comes from groundwater; in Europe, this is even 75 per cent. Soil quality is vital for a good groundwater quality and sufficient groundwater recharge. Therefore, a clear link between soil and groundwater in the first European Soil Monitoring Law is crucial. Based on the European Soil Strategy, KWR researchers have identified eight key actions in which the link with groundwater should be more clearly defined.

Soil and groundwater are linked

The report EU Soil Health Law – Soil as a key element in groundwater protection provides an overview of existing scientific and legal connections between soil and groundwater. It highlights the importance of including groundwater in the EU Soil Monitoring Law. The connection between this new law and existing legal instruments in the field of (ground)water and nature was sought. The results of this were linked to the latest scientific insights.

Groundwater insufficiently protected

The results show groundwater is not always well protected against pollution from activities on or with the soil. However, various soil processes contribute to improved groundwater quality through the degradation or chemical conversion of pollutants. To ensure the health of soils and groundwater, sufficient clean (rain)water must be able to infiltrate into soils. Part of this must sustainably replenish groundwater. For a better connection with groundwater protection, eight key actions from the Soil Strategy are essential:

  1. Circular economy
  2. Limiting land take and soil sealing
  3. Clean water
  4. Sustainable Soil Management
  5. Preventing soil pollution
  6. Restoration and remediation of degraded and contaminated soil
  7. Soil and the digital agenda and
  8. Soil data and monitoring

In these eight key actions, a link between soil and groundwater should be established in order to continue to protect the most important source of drinking water.