We appreciate the fact that water quality in Switzerland is increasingly becoming a topic of public debate and see this as a great cross-generational chance. Swiss drinking water is of very high quality. It is our vision that our drinking water will be even better in every household, every office, every school and every catering establishment.
Since our social activities have a strong influence on our water, WfW advocates concrete measures for more effective water protection. As consumers, we all have a great influence and therefore a responsibility that, as a society, we should take more notice of. Together, we can ensure that future generations will also be able to enjoy natural, high-quality and healthy drinking water.
Working together for a sustainable and fair use of water.
On 13 June 2021, the Swiss population will vote on two federal popular initiatives, namely the Drinking Water Initiative and the Ban of Pesticides Initiative. With this position paper, WATER FOR WATER (WfW) wants to take a stand in the current discourse, provide facts and arguments and support the opinion-forming process. As a politically independent non-profit organisation with a clear mandate to raise awareness and share knowledge, we see it as our responsibility to provide information on the two initiatives.
Both political concerns share common goals: to protect the environment, to promote insect and species diversity in general, and to ensure the production of healthy food today and in the future. With a focus on Swiss waters, both popular initiatives call for protection against their increasing pollution with pesticides and fertilisers in order to preserve water quality, intact ecosystems and biodiversity.
The two approaches are the following:
Drinking Water Initiative
Popular initiative “For clean drinking water and healthy food – no subsidies for the use of pesticides and prophylactic antibiotics”
The initiative demands that agricultural subsidies should only be paid for farming methods that do not endanger health and the environment and do not pollute drinking water. In concrete terms, the initiative demands that only those farms be supported with direct payments that
- do not use pesticides,
- do not use prophylactic or regular antibiotics in animal husbandry,
- and whose livestock can be fed with the food produced on the farm.
Ban of Pesticides Initiative
Popular initiative “For a Switzerland without artificial pesticides”
The initiative calls for a ban on the use of synthetic pesticides in agricultural production, in the processing of agricultural products and in soil and landscape conservation. The import for commercial purposes of foodstuffs containing synthetic pesticides or produced with the aid of such pesticides is also to be banned in order to protect domestic agriculture. With an approval of the initiative, Switzerland would become pesticide-free within ten years.
KEY ARGUMENTS FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF WATER
Clean drinking water and groundwater are the basis of life for future generations. WfW therefore welcomes the water-related objectives of both popular initiatives, above all the minimisation of pesticide input into water bodies and groundwater. The following arguments are decisive for WfW's position on the two popular initiatives:
Water quality - we can take action now
Water as a human right includes not only access to water in sufficient quantity, but also of flawless quality. Although much has been achieved in the area of water quality in Switzerland thanks to the water protection measures of the past 50 years, a wide variety of preventable substances can still be detected in minute concentrations in our drinking water.
WfW would like to see groundwater continue to be used for drinking water production without costly treatment. We want to ensure this, which is why it needs action.
Protection of waters - clear guidelines are needed
The current policy with the suspension of AP22+ by the two chambers of parliament as well as the Parliamentary Initiative 19.475 is neither providing clear requirements nor timely solutions for the problems in water protection. In contrast, the two present popular initiatives regulate the use of pesticides more restrictively and also take the nutrient problem and the prophylactic use of antibiotics into account. Depending on the scenario, 70-92 % of the open arable land in Switzerland could be farmed pesticide-free with the measures called for. This would massively reduce the pollution of water bodies with pesticides and nutrients.
WfW wishes for natural and healthy drinking water, which requires concrete measures for effective and sustainable water protection.
Initiatives are not extreme - but are currently the only political instrument at national level for a sustainable approach to water
Swiss taxes are currently financing an agriculture that has been failing to meet any of the 13 environmental targets for years and is causing consequential costs. The federal popular initiatives would initiate a policy shift and shape agriculture as already prescribed by the constitution: An agricultural policy with effective instruments that stops the increasing poisoning of our soils and waters, which has so far remained without consequences, and creates incentives to strengthen our drinking water as well as our health, biodiversity and thus ultimately our livelihood in the long term. The initiatives therefore provide a decisive impetus to steer agriculture in a sustainable direction. Parliament and the administration will implement them in a measured way.
WfW wants future generations to be able to enjoy water from the tap with a good feeling, which is why it needs fair and environmentally friendly resource management along the entire water cycle.
WfW – FOR A SUSTAINABLE USE OF WATER
The federal popular initiatives would make an important contribution to effective and sustainable resource management, but would not yet guarantee comprehensive protection of water in Switzerland. Important aspects, such as the improved protection of inflow areas and drinking water catchments, measures for the reduction of nutrient surpluses or more effective preventive measures in the approval process for pesticides, still fall short. The implementation of such regulations requires the active involvement of diverse actors from society as a whole, beyond the popular initiatives. WfW will continue to address these issues and advocate for a sustainable use of water.