Islanders must consider the pesticide levels at Vale Pond “a wakeup call”, according to Guernsey Water.
With a situation reminiscent of the Leonardo DiCaprio film 'Don’t Look Up', Guernsey Water has said that it needs to be “stronger” in its message to islanders after its previous warnings have been ignored.
Guernsey Water announced this week that the body of water at Vale Pond, which holds enough water to supply the “whole north of the island”, is now unusable due to pesticide levels. The chemical causing the issue is glyphosate.
The problem has been caused by pesticides and weed killers that have been sprayed in gardens, especially on areas such as paths and patios, which are washed off through surface water and into the island’s water catchment when it rains.
Pictured: Islanders are being asked to "act urgently" and reconsider using weedkiller and pesticides.
Water Quality Risk Manager, Margaret McGuinness, said pesticide levels are increasing “year on year”.
“This is not only a problem in one body of water; we are also seeing increases in streams over the whole island. We have seen a steady increase and, between 2019 and 2020 we saw a 65% increase in pesticide levels,” she said.
“We run a campaign every year asking people to reconsider their pesticide and weedkiller use because of the detrimental effect these products have on our water supply.
“It certainly feels like our warnings have been ignored because we haven’t seen a drop in the levels; it is incredibly frustrating.
“We run a campaign at Easter because we see a big spike in pesticide detections after islanders spend the long weekend working in their gardens.”
Pictured: 250 million litres of water from the Vale Pond water catchment is "unusable" due to pesticide levels.
Ms McGuiness said that, if islanders do not reduce their use of weedkiller and pesticides, restrictions in water usage or increase water bills “will be a matter of when, not if”.
“Unless something changes, pesticide levels will increase and we will end up needing to implement enhanced water treatments; that process would cost the island millions,” she said.
“Every year we are getting closer and closer to reaching that point. The pesticide level limit is basically zero because, quite rightly, people do not want pesticides in their drinking water, but that is where we are heading.”
Ms McGuinness said islanders need to take the issue seriously.
“We have tried asking nicely and that hasn’t worked so now we are asking islanders to act with a sense of urgency and seriously reconsider what they’re doing,” she said.
“The implication of losing this amount [250 million litres at Vale Pond water catchment] is that we have limited resilience to a drought."
Pictured: Water Quality Risk Manager, Margaret McGuinness, said it "feels like the warnings have been ignored".
Ms McGuiness continued: “It’s also not just about drinking water, it is about the environment and biodiversity. These products kill weeds and pests that people don’t want in their gardens, but they also kill beneficial weeds and insects.”
Guernsey Water tests pesticide levels around the island “continually throughout the year”.
“We spend a lot of money on testing because it’s not something that can be done on-island, the samples are tested in the UK,” said Ms McGuinness.
“As well as being a costly process, it means that we can’t be reactive. If we think there is a problem we have to stop and wait until we get the results back, which takes time.”
Pictured: The Leonardo DiCaprio film "Don't Look Up" depicts a population who ignore expert warnings of a meteor approaching Earth.
Ms McGuinness said that Guernsey Water is working with other organisations, including the Pollinator Project to help educate islanders of alternative solutions to pesticides and weedkillers. More information can be found HERE.
There is also advice on alternatives to pesticides on the States’ website HERE.
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