Forum members were delighted to have the opportunity to meet with Darragh O’Brien T.D. and Malcolm Noonan T.D. in the Custom House last week to discuss the Forum’s submission on the draft RBMP. The Forum presented its key recommendations for the 3rd RBMP cycle.
An outcomes-based approach
The Forum recommends that targeted measures, metrics and key performance indicators are included in the new plan for every waterbody. Under the Water Framework Directive every waterbody in Ireland has an associated objective to achieve or maintain good ecological status by 2027. Waterbodies not at good status will require targeted measures to restore them to good status and waterbodies at good status will need measures to prevent deterioration. Such an outcomes-based approach would ensure effective and efficient planning and implementation of targeted measures, and allow for transparent monitoring of progress so that efforts can be enhanced if necessary.
The Water Forum believes a full-time project management secretariat should be established to support the implementation of the plan. The secretariat would facilitate effective engagement and collaboration between government departments to ensure policy coherence and alignment of national and EU policies. It would also support collaborations between agencies responsible for water management as well as the between the different tiers within the RBMP governance structures. An urgent commitment is required to establish the proposed interdepartmental group to develop a comprehensive financing strategy to support the implementation of measures that will deliver ambitious water, climate and biodiversity objectives.
A new national approach to public participation needs to be developed that includes a vision and action plan for meaningful public engagement in the 46 catchment areas. A phased approach should be taken in a number of pilot catchments to test various approaches, to improving public engagement, contributing to the development of the new national approach. Pilots should be undertaken early in the 3rd cycle to ensure more effecting and meaningful processes are in place for the remainder of the plan period. A framework will have to be developed to support the development and implementation of public participation dialogues, community action planning and project co-creation within and between Local Authority areas and within and between state agencies with responsibilities for water, climate and biodiversity.
The Forum has made a significant number of recommendations regarding the different pressures acting on water quality in Ireland. Across all of the pressures, training needs to be provided in WFD and catchment management to Department and local government personnel but also state bodies and agencies to improve practice to achieve better outcomes for water quality. Building relationships and knowledge exchange opportunities with landowners is essential to ensure they take ownership over the protection of water and nature.