Every 6 years, Ireland prepares a River Basin Management Plan that sets out targets to address water quality issues including the protection, improvement and sustainable management of Ireland’s water environment. The aim of this 3rd draft River Basin Management Plan is to ensure that our natural waters are sustainably managed, that freshwater resources are protected so that there is no further deterioration; and where required, Ireland’s rivers, lakes and coastal water bodies are restored to good ecological status.
The 3rd draft plan sets out the protection measures that will be put in place for the 1,983 water bodies that are currently meeting good ecological status so that no deteriorations occur to these water bodies. Restoration measures to address those 1,603 water bodies that are at risk of not meeting their environmental objectives are specified. Actions will also be taken in the 1, 256 water bodies that are currently in review to decide if they need additional measures to meet their objectives.
Using the working principle of ‘implementing of the right measure in the right place’ the plan aims to raise the level of ambition by providing clear strategies to protect good and high-status water bodies and improve water bodies at less than good status and proposes the following three priority thematic areas.
Thematic area 1: Integrated Catchment Planning.
Catchment management plans will be put in place for the 46 hydrometric catchments as sub plans to the national plan. Templates for these plans that will build, over time, to fully integrated catchment management plans will be developed by LAWPRO in consultation with stakeholders. Part of this process will include the development of county level implementation plans to give action to the objectives of the national and catchment plans. These actions and objectives will facilitate annual monitoring of progress.
Thematic area 2: Multiple benefits
The catchment-based planning facilitated by integrated catchment management will facilitate the identification of multiple benefits for water, biodiversity, air quality and climate mitigation.
Thematic area 3: Role clarity and collaborative implementation
Increased collaboration and coordination by all implementing bodies at national, regional and catchment level will be required in the 3rd cycle. Local Government will have a key leadership role in stewardship of water catchments and need to put in place the necessary resources to deliver on objectives for protection and restoration.
Public participation and stakeholder engagement is an integral part of the River Basin Management Planning process. Everyone has an opportunity to comment and influence the outcome of the planning process. While this is important for the National plan the Water Forum considers it is also essential in the development of the 46 catchment and sub-catchment plans. The Framework for Integrated Land and Landscape Management (FILLM) policy recommendation that the development of catchment plans should begin with a community vision for local catchments is based on public participation research commissioned by the Water Forum. Such early engagement will facilitate the development of co-created action that allow citizens to contribute to the plans and take ownership of the actions required to achieve targeted objectives at local level. To deliver on such an approach collaboration and coordination by all implementing bodies (Local Authorities, LAWPRO, IFI, NPWS, CARO, Marine Institute) would be essential at national, regional and catchment levels. Such collaborative action has the potential to facilitate the identification, prioritisation and implementation of actions to achieve multiple benefits for water, nature, climate and cultural ecosystem services.
Two upcoming events will explore these issues further.
The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage are hosting a webinar on stakeholder engagement in the draft River Basin Management Plan 2022-2017 on 17th January 2022 at 14:00.
The Water Forum are hosting a webinar on public participation on 3rd February 2022 at 10am details on both events will follow next week.
The 6 month public consultation on the draft plan until March 31, 2022. Further information is available at: www.gov.ie Consultation