Groundwater protected from impact of new tech

England's groundwater is to get extra protection from potential pollution caused by new technologies like ground source heat pumps under proposals issued by the Environment Agency.

A renewable energy technology with considerable potential in the UK, ground source heat pump installations include pipes filled with a heat-conducting chemical buried underground and could potentially damage groundwater as their use expands.

The pumps, which work by tapping into the heat stored in the ground as it is warmed by the sun, could affect groundwater temperatures as well as causing pollution by leaking chemicals, the EA said.

Proposals regarding heat pumps are one of the issues covered in a set of revised rules for groundwater protection, Part 4 of the Groundwater Protection: Policy and Practice (GP3), which the EA released for consultation last week asking farmers, developers, planners and other interested parties to comment.

Protection of drinking water supplies and the emergency burial of diseased animal carcasses are two of the further issues covered in the document.

Tony Marsland, the Environment Agency's Policy manager for groundwater quality, said groundwater resources provide over 30% of the public water supply in England and Wales.

"We all use groundwater and we all can affect it, directly or indirectly. Our intensive use of land poses many risks - for example, from chemicals used in industry and agriculture, from too much groundwater being abstracted and many other day to day activities," he said.

"It is a sobering thought that more than 50% of groundwater-fed public water supplies now need treatment before they can be safely used.

"We must reverse the declining trend, which was also noted in our State of Groundwater in England and Wales report released last year. This goal is also supported by new EU legislation.

"Natural recovery can take decades or even centuries - so protection is the best strategy," he said.

Groundwater Protection: Policy and Practice (GP3) can be accessed on the Environment Agency website.

Goska Romanowicz



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