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#Freshwater PETITION: Get nitrates out of our drinking water

Call on the Government to lower the limit for nitrates in drinking water to safe levels

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Greenpeace has today launched a petition calling on the Minister of Health and the Government’s new water regulating body to lower the recognised ‘safe’ limit for nitrates in drinking water to one thirteenth of its current level, from 11.3mg/L to 0.87mg/L.

The call comes hot on the heels of a new report, overseen by Victoria and Otago universities, that reinforces known links between intensive dairying, nitrates and bowel cancer.

It says the health of 800,000 New Zealanders could be affected by nitrate water pollution. The report references an international study, which has shown an association between colorectal cancer and nitrates in drinking water at levels as low as 0.87mg/L.

Greenpeace senior campaigner Steve Abel says it’s time the Government faces up to the impact intensive dairying has on human health. 

“We know where this nitrate pollution is coming from: the rampant overuse of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser and the urine of too many cows,” says Abel.

“Successive governments have been too timid to properly regulate big dairy polluters, and their inaction has not only fouled our rivers and intensified climate change but it is putting New Zealanders’ health at risk.

“Everyone should be able to trust that the water from their tap is clean and safe—it’s a fundamental human right. How can you trust it’s safe when the Government’s limit for nitrates in drinking water is thirteen times higher than the level associated with an increased rate of cancer?

“The Government must lower the ‘safe’ limit for nitrates and halt nitrate pollution from intensive dairying.”

Last month, Greenpeace delivered a 33,000-strong petition to Parliament, calling on the Government to phase out synthetic nitrogen fertiliser. 

Abel says that cutting synthetic nitrogen fertiliser, a key driver of industrial dairying, and reducing cow stocking rates are essential to reducing nitrate pollution in drinking water.

“Industrial dairy is effectively poisoning public and private water sources for profit and robbing us of something that belongs to everyone: our most fundamental resource, fresh water,” says Abel.

“It’s not just our drinking water at risk—agriculture is New Zealand’s biggest climate polluter. The health of our people for generations to come rests on what the Government will do now to regulate industrial dairying.”