The public consultation on Ireland’s draft 3rd River Basin Management Plan (RBMP) 2022-2027 was launched by Ministers Darragh O’Brien, T.D. and Malcolm Noonan, T.D at Turvey Nature Reserve in Donabate. The draft plan outlines the measures that Ireland will have to implement to improve and protect water quality of our rivers, lakes, groundwaters, estuarine and coastal waters. This is a requirement by all EU Member States under the EU Water Framework Directive. The purpose of the plan is to identify and implement evidence-based priorities to achieve:
- Full compliance with relevant EU legislation
- Prevent deterioration
- Meet the objectives of designated protected areas
- Protect high-status waters
- Implement measures and pilot schemes in targeted water bodies close to meeting their objectives.
The challenges in achieving these goals are significant.
The last EC Environmental Implementation Review, showed that Ireland has 16 infringements for breaching EU legislation: 4 relate to a failures with regard to EU water legislation (1) shortcomings in the transposition of the Water Framework Directive; (2) a failure to comply with the Urban Waste Water Treatment (including 33 agglomerations without wastewater treatment or only primary systems); (3) a failure to comply with Drinking Water Directive due to exceedances in Trihalomethanes (THMs) and (4) a failure to meet obligations on environmental quality standards for pollutants under Priority Substances Directive.
At the beginning of the 2nd RBMP cycle in 2018, 191 waterbodies were identified as priority action areas and detailed catchment assessments were carried out to identify targeted measures to achieve improvements. The EPA Water Quality in 2020 noted that while some improvements had occurred these were masked by further declines in the water quality elsewhere. The work has provided significant learnings on the pressures impacting catchments such as the negative impacts of excess sediments (owing to land drainage) and the identification of critical source areas for nutrients so measures can now be spatially targeted for maximum impacts.
This draft plan promises an increased level of ambition. Integrated catchment management processes will be used to develop catchment plans for all 46 catchments and these will be supported by sub-catchment plans. The objective is to create opportunities for greater public participation and the engagement of key stakeholders and sectors, at local and regional level, in the management of water bodies and river catchments. Many of the measures needed to protect and restore water quality also has benefits for biodiversity and climate mitigation.
Ireland is only one of a few EU countries that has Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data available to the public on the water quality in rivers, lakes and coastal zones, available at www.catchments.ie. The science states that the impacts of the climate emergency and the biodiversity crises will be much more acute if water habitats and ecosystems are compromised. As clean water is essential for all life, protecting water resources and habitats is the first step in protecting biodiversity and combating the negative impacts of climate change. The public consultation on this draft River Basin Management Plan is open from now until 31st March 2022. Find out about public information events in your area at www.lawaters.ie.
Make sure you input into this very important plan: