The Water Forum’s overarching research objective is:
To ensure all guidance concerning the management of inland aquatic environments and water resources provided by The Forum is supported by the best available science; and where knowledge gaps exist, to carry out or commission research to support the delivery of the Strategic Plan.
This overarching objective is supported by three sub-objectives:
- To develop and implement a research programme in conjunction with third level education providers to advance thinking and policy development with regard to The Water Forum’s five key thematic areas and other research topics as necessary.
- To engage stakeholders to assist in the delivery of research actions designed to support The Water Forum’s Strategic Plan.
- To advance communication and understanding between the scientific research community, policy stakeholders and the public.
KEY RESEARCH THEMATIC AREAS
The Water Forum’s Strategic Plan identifies five key thematic areas within which priority research actions will be delivered. In addition, the Strategic Plan highlights several areas where research investigations may be required but which do not sit within a priority theme, such as water services. These research topics are included in this Research Strategy as ‘Additional Research Topics’ and will contribute to the delivery of the Strategic Plan.
Drinking water source protection is a multi-barrier approach to preventing or reducing the contamination of drinking water from source to tap. Key approaches to improving the quality of drinking water in the Republic of Ireland include the development of Drinking Water Safety Plans, the National Source Protection Pilot Project (NSPPP), The National Federation of Group Water Schemes (NFGWS) Strategy on Drinking Water Source Protection, and the recent National Framework for Drinking Water Source Protection.
The introduction of non-native, invasive species to Ireland, either intentionally or unintentionally, can result in negative impacts on native species, threatening Ireland’s native biodiversity. In addition, invasive species can adversely impact on recreational activities and the delivery of ecosystem services. Their impact and control can have significant economic implications.
Protecting and enhancing high status waterbodies is a main goal of Ireland’s second River Basin Management Plan as the proportion of waterbodies classified as high status has continued to decline across Ireland. Of a total of 384 waterbodies with a high-status objective, 141 waterbodies are classified as being at risk of not achieving this objective or are currently ‘in review’.
Undertaking measures to protect and improve the physical condition of the water environment is a key focus of Ireland’s second River Basin Management Plan. Physical barriers in rivers can impede sediment and water movement and restrict the movement of aquatic species such as migratory fish. Hydromorphology has been found to be a significant pressure acting on 24% of Ireland’s water bodies identified as being at risk of failing to meet Water Framework Directive objectives.
Diffuse runoff and point source pollution from agriculture and wastewater (urban and domestic wastewater) have been identified as significant pressures acting on Ireland’s water resources. Nutrient pollution can have extreme detrimental effects on aquatic ecology, drinking water quality and human health.
As the role of The Water Forum develops, additional research topics which lie outside of the five key thematic areas will become apparent that will value add to the delivery of the Strategic Plan and assist in providing guidance to the Minister. The Forum commits to developing research actions associated with these additional research topics in a timely and appropriate manner as they arise.