Forests play an essential role in the health of our planet and the health of us as people. For the Earth, forests help stabilise the climate and could potentially contribute one third of the climate change mitigation that is needed. For us, they filter the air we breathe and the natural waters we drink are purified through the soil they help maintain. They are good for our mental health, too – the Japanese practice of shrinyen-yoku (forest bathing) has been shown to lift mood, reduce stress, improve attention and boost immunity.
Europe’s natural mineral waters have long been recognised for their unique quality. As they pass through geological structures on their journey to protected underground sources, they attain a high level of purity which allows them to be safely consumed in their natural state.
The process of filtration also depends on healthy soils and forests. For this reason, natural mineral water producers carry out forest protection and reforestation in their catchment areas (known as ‘impluvium’).
So, protecting our natural water sources not only guarantees the safety and purity of these waters, but also protects ecosystems and enhances biodiversity in catchment areas above ground.
The first such protection zone was set up 134 years ago, in Spa, Belgium. Since then, it has expanded to cover more than 13,000 hectares, and more and more impluvia have come under the protection of natural mineral water producers across Europe.
Natural mineral water producers join with local authorities and other local actors around impluvia, such as farmers, to ensure the water source is protected. In the face of climate change, they are stepping up these efforts across Europe.
The protected areas can be vast, so the challenge is huge, but these efforts are having an impact. For example, replacing conifers with a mixed structure of local trees positively impacts biodiversity and local species, while also increasing groundwater recharge and bolstering the sustainability of the underground water resource.
The industry has a demonstrable track record of protecting forests and other natural ecosystems, but this mission is ever more important. That is why, under the EU Code of Conduct for Responsible Food Business and Marketing Practices, NMWE committed to defining sector-specific biodiversity criteria, helping companies measure and increase biodiversity in the areas under their management.
We have major announcements coming soon on this topic – on our track record and how we will continue to improve our biodiversity protection and water stewardship. Watch this space.