Action needed on water quality – Draft Plan not up to the task

2nd September 2017
Press Release

On Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed that no effective progress has been made in meeting EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) targets to improve the quality of Irish rivers, lakes and estuaries, Note [1]

We have failed to meet the overall 13% improvement proposed for the 2010 -2015 period and there is little change in water bodies in an unhealthy state: at 43% from 45% for Irish rivers, the 54% figure for lakes unchanged, and estuaries marginally unchanged to 69% from 70%.

The report also reveals increases in fish kills in 2013-15 in comparison to previous periods.

The release of the EPA figures came a day in advance of the public consultation deadline for the Draft River Basin Management Plan, by the Department of Housing Planning Community and Local Government.

This plan is intended to state how Ireland is to meet the EU obligation to achieve “Good Water Status” of river catchments by 2021, where only limited derogation with specific justification is permitted after that date.

An Taisce believes the draft plan is lacking in ambition and capacity to meet the measures required for the water improvement targets of the WFD.

The plan:

  • Does not provide any effective measures to reduce the impact of agriculture, and the 6% annual increase in the dairy herd since the lifting of milk quotas. The most recent data presented at the EPA National Water Forum in Galway in June 2017 reveals that thousands of farms are failing to comply with the Nitrates Directive, which limits the pollution impact on surface and ground water.
  • Identifies the extent of deficient sewerage infrastructure with 44 urban waste water discharges linked with a high degree of probability to river pollution and raw sewage still being discharged into the water environment of 44 municipal areas, but leaves the level of response to meeting of improvement targets to Irish Water, without any provision of the level of financial resources.
  • Misses the opportunity to set out an effective river catchment response to the mounting flood risks posed by Climate Change, including measures to slow downstream rainwater flows through historic flood plain restoration and other measures.
  • Evades effective action in all area affecting water management in meeting of WFD “Good Water Status” targets, in favour of continuing avoidance of effective regulation of forestry, peat extraction, water abstraction, aquaculture and other activity.

“If Ireland wants to maintain its clean green image, then the highest standard of water quality needs to be achieved”

said Ian Lumley An Taisce Advocacy Officer, he continued

“Meeting the EU Water Framework Directive targets for ‘Good Water Status’ must be a national priority, supported by policy with effective implementation and provision of resources”

An Taisce has set out a of recommendations in its submission to the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. Note [2].

ENDS

Ian Lumley, Advocacy Officer, An Taisce. Tel: +353 1 454 1786
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Notes

[1] EPA Report - A greater focus on protecting our most pristine water environments is needed, says EPA https://www.epa.ie/newsandevents/news/name,62863,en.html
[2] An Taisce's submission to the Department of Housing. Planning, Community & Local Government on the Draft River Basin Management Plan 2018-2021 https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxEVOTzgFnKEcm9NWTNBNzkyU28/view?usp=sharing

About An Taisce

An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.