8 March 2010
A recent report on water quality produced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has shown that a vast improvement in water quality is needed over the next five years if Ireland is to meet the requirements of the Water Framework Directive.
The statistics summarise the monitoring results for surface and groundwaters in Ireland. They show a decrease in river water quality and an increase in the number of fish kills. There is also a decrease in the number of bathing water sites meeting EU standards and a dramatic loss in the percentage of high ecological river sites over the last 20 years.
The findings contained in the report, ‘Water Quality in Ireland 2007 – 2008’, outline the 20 most relevant indicators of the aquatic environment and includes interpretation of the significant monitoring data collected under the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) 2000/06/EC.
International consultancy, WYG Ireland, was granted the contract to monitor the quality of groundwater throughout Ireland on behalf of the EPA in 2008 and again in 2009, the final year of the three-year framework agreement.
Michael Cunningham, Head of Environmental and Planning, WYG Ireland, said: “We have complimented the EPA on producing this comprehensive report on water quality in Ireland. It demonstrates a good understanding of the current position and trends in recent years. Given the current status of our waters, Ireland is faced with a major challenge to meet the objectives of the Water Framework Directive, the majority of which have to be achieved by 2015.
"Ireland’s River Basin Management Plans outline the steps which need to be undertaken to achieve the objectives of the Directive. Not only must we protect waters that have been identified as having good status, but almost 50% of our river and lake water bodies and 40% of estuarine water needs to be restored through the implementation of management plans within the river basins,” he added.
Mr Cunningham feels that one of the key ingredients required is investment in the upgrade of many of Ireland’s municipal discharge facilities, most notably the waste water treatment plants, and both investment and improved management practices on farmlands, but he points out that limited access to these funds is a cause for concern.
He said: “Due to a number of factors including the government reductions in capital expenditure, ongoing deterioration of local council funds and the abandoned Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS), we are concerned that the government will not make the necessary capital available to achieve the objectives of the Water Framework Directive in time.
“Unfortunately, the status of our water and wastewater infrastructure is steadily falling behind our water needs and obligations for protection of the water environment. This delay in infrastructure development has already resulted in localised water shortages, curtailed development plans and may have implications for Ireland’s ability to meet the requirements of the Water Framework Directive by its target date, therefore the question remains, can Ireland meet its water quality targets on time?,” added Michael.