The government is concerned about the quality of Ireland’s water as around half of the country’s waterways are now in poor condition or worse, Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien said.
On Monday, the department released its draft watershed management plan, a strategy overseeing the improvement of rivers, estuaries and other areas, which will now be subject to public consultation.
“We have a concern within the government, to be frank, about the quality of the water in this country,” O’Brien said, launching the document in the Turvey nature reserve in the north of the country. county dublin.
“We actually need to make more progress. A little less than half [of our water courses] report that the water quality is bad or worse than that.
The plan is a mandatory part of the European Union’s Water Framework Directive and aims to ensure quality to help protect drinking water sources and their surroundings.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has criticized the latest plan, while public confidence in efforts to safeguard the supply could be shaken by recent failures at treatment plants in Dublin and Gorey, Co. Wexford.
At the launch, Green Party Minister of State Malcolm Noonan said of 1,600 water bodies deemed at risk, about 47% were due to a single problem or threat, the rest more.
“We need to approach it collectively,” Noonan said of the public consultation process which will now last six months. “We need our farming community to participate. We also need to strengthen our local authorities, our Irish Water, all agencies and communities. “
The plan, which will run until 2027, sets out environmental improvements to be achieved during a watershed planning cycle, water quality goals and a program of measures.
In total, there are 4,842 bodies of water. Only about half of the rivers, lakes, coastal and transitional waters are identified as having a “good or better” status.
The latest report covering the period 2018 to 2021 highlighted several ambitions, including reducing water pipe leak rates from 46% to 38% by 2021. Irish Water said it is currently at 42% and that it is on the verge of reaching 38% this year – that alone would translate into a daily saving of 166 million liters.
However, the updated plan also notes new challenges that are expected to emerge as a result of global warming.
“While Ireland has abundant water resources, the impacts of climate change are already being felt and are expected to continue and intensify in the years and decades to come,” he says.
With planning for droughts and water scarcity becoming ‘increasingly crucial’, Irish Water is developing a National Water Resources Plan to ensure a reliable and sustainable public water supply over a 25-year period.
Since 2018, with agriculture being a key sector influencing water quality, a team of advisers have visited around 2,100 farms, while there have been 16,000 separate “engagements” with dairy farmers.