The presence of renewable energy recovery systems in catchment protection zones
French regulations (the POPE Act, Programming Act 2005-781 of 13 July 2005 laying down guidelines for energy policy and transposing into French law Directive 2001/77/EC of 27 September 2001 and the Grenelle Environment laws) recommend increasing the share of renewable energy in final energy consumption. In this context, the French Regional Health Agencies (ARS) receive an increasing number of applications from developers and communities for the establishment of renewable energy recovery systems (geothermal devices, solar panels and wind turbines) in catchment protection zones used for the production of water intended for human consumption, due to the easements created there, which in some cases may prohibit, eliminate or limit the development of certain activities, particularly agriculture.
To investigate these applications, the ARSs use the provisions (when they exist) of the prefectural order in application of the French Public Health Code (Article R. 1321-13), authorising catchment of water intended for human consumption, including the declaration of public utility (DPU) of the catchment protection zones and associated easements.
Role of the Agency
In this context, in August 2011 the Agency produced a collective expert appraisal report on the main risks for underground water resources associated with the installation, operation, maintenance and abandonment of various renewable energy recovery systems (geothermal devices, solar panels and wind turbines) in the various catchment protection zones for water intended for human consumption. Based on this work, the Agency made recommendations, by way of example, to improve the critical control points that should be implemented and monitored when the installation of these systems is authorised.
These recommendations, in the form of guidelines, are intended to allow the Regional Health Agencies (ARS) to assess the risks and investigate the applications seeking the installation of renewable energy recovery systems in catchment protection zones.
Applications for exceptional authorisation to use water extracted from the natural environment which does not comply with one of the regulatory quality limits.
The quality of water that may be used for the production of drinking water is governed by the regulations. However, in exceptional cases, non-compliant resources may be used. In accordance with Article R. 1321-7-II of the French Public Health Code, the Agency’s Opinion is mandatoryfor applications requesting exceptional authorisation to use non-compliant water resources.
Role of the Agency
The expert appraisal relating to “exceptional authorisations” concerns the following issues:
- the proposed resource’s aptitude to be used exceptionally for the production of water intended for human consumption, particularly with regard to its quality, possible variations and risk of degradation;
- the proposed measures for protecting the water intake;
- the rationale for the proposed treatment system with regard to the quality of raw water and its capacity to produce water that continuously meets the quality requirements set down in the regulations.
Underground storage of gas
The underground storage of gas makes it possible to manage a fluctuating demand by consumers in relation to a fairly constant supply by producers. For practical reasons, given the space needed and quantities stored, the gas is injected underground. When it is stored in an aquifer, it must not interfere with other uses of the underground water. No degradation of water resources used for the production of water intended for human consumption must be associated with the storage of gas or its exploitation. In accordance with the regulations (Decree 2006-649 of 2 June 2006 as amended, concerning mining works, underground storage works, and mining and underground storage policy) the opening of well drilling works for underground storage is subject to prefectural authorisation. When natural gas is injected into an aquifer containing or in contact with water that is used or may be used for human consumption, ANSES is consulted and has a one-month period to issue its observations.
Role of the Agency
ANSES produces an expert appraisal on the project to store gas in the aquifer that is submitted for an Opinion, in order to assess whether the project will be implemented and exploited in the best possible conditions, so as to avoid any present or future risk of deteriorating quality of the resource used for the production of water intended for human consumption.