The Plateau de Gavot is a 35 km2 area overlooking Lake Geneva and the town of Évian. It is home to the Évian mineral water impluvium: the place where the water infiltrates the soil, and starts a process that fifteen years later results in the water that comes out of the spring a few miles away, which is then bottled under the brand name Évian. Fifteen years is a long period, but this is the time it takes for the water to reach perfect stability, after years of interaction with the minerals that enrich it. And as our guide explains, this stability is crucial for the water to be branded as pure spring water: a requirement meaning that no human activity whatever must affect the quality of the water. Hence the mission of the hydrogeologists who work on the Évian Impluvium: to develop, manage and above all protect the water resource, and ensure its stability and quality.
APIEME: a multi-player association to protect the impluvium
Spring water is a renewable resource that is the result of a long, complex and delicate process, and its management is sustainable by its very nature. Cathy Le Hec, in charge of the protection policies for the impluvium, explains that twenty years ago, the impact of agriculture on its environment – and notably on water – started to be documented. To protect both its infiltration zone (on the plateau) and its emergence zone (where the spring is), Évian then decided to work hand in hand with the local farmers and authorities to find solutions that would benefit everyone. This approach led to the founding in 1992 of APIEME: the Association for the Protection of the Impluvium of Evian Mineral Water. Its members are the nine villages of the Pays de Gavot and the towns that benefit from the presence of the spring next to Lake Geneva. APIEME carries out two types of action. Firstly it monitors the impact of human presence on the immediate environment (notably by supporting responsible town and country planning), preserving and rehabilitating wetlands (the Gavot plateau contains 70 recognised by the Ramsar Convention), managing the risks arising from human activities (such as sewage), and developing a comprehensive educational approach. APIEME’s second mission focuses more precisely on agriculture, as it assists farmers who implement innovative, more environmentally-friendly techniques. For instance,
APIEME helps them to switch from phytosanitary products to natural alternatives, or to make their installations compliant with water preservation safety standards.
At the moment, as Cathy explains, a methanization project is being finalised to put cow dung to good use, as well as garbage from local restaurants and canteens: biodigesters will turn them into methane.
With every major decision that needs to be made in terms of country planning, APIEME coordinates private and public actors for the benefit of the local environment and all concerned. To Cathy Le Hec, 20 years after its birth, the Association is a success because every player has found a role to play in defining long-term actions that engage everyone at local level.
Looking ahead is what it is all about. We are preparing the future.
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