The Government published the River Basin Management Plan for Ireland 2018-2021, which sets out actions that will be taken to improve water quality in rivers, lakes, estuaries, groundwater and coastal areas across the entire country. Developing the RBMP involved three separate public consultation processes, as mandated under the EU Water Framework Directive, these were:
- The Significant Water Management Issues consultation, which is mandated under the Water Framework Directive (WFD), was held in 2015/2016. This process identified significant issues to be addressed in the draft RBMP.
- National public consultation on the draft RBMP took place from February to August in 2017. This allowed people to give their views on the structures and measures set out in the draft document, and on how the final Plan should be developed. There was a strong response to the process, with 938 submissions received directly by the Department from private individuals and groups.
- Local public consultation on the draft RBMP took place between February to August in 2017. This was organised by the Waters & Communities Office and focused on local water quality interests and issues. Through face-to face engagement at 124 public information meetings, and via online submissions and phone conversations, Community Water Officers gathered c1,000 submissions from people interested in both national and local water issues. These engagement processes provided an important means both of conveying information to the public and of gathering public opinion on local issues and the draft Plan
A total of 190 waterbodies were prioritised nationally as Areas for Action through a series of workshops organised by local authorities and the EPA. These include a total of 726 water bodies, consisting of 616 river water bodies, 89 lakes, 14 estuaries and 7 coastal water bodies.
Water quality in Ireland has deteriorated over the past two decades. This new plan provides a framework for coordination between local authorities and public agencies to protect public health, the environment, water amenities and to help sustain water-intensive industries, including agri-food and tourism, particularly in rural Ireland. Specific actions will be taken to improve water quality in these waterbodies for the benefit of people, wildlife and the economy. Speaking at a recent meeting of the Southern Regional Assembly Cllr Damien Geoghegan said “This national River Basin Management Plan shows real commitment by state agencies and Local Authorities to work with people to find suitable ways for protecting our rivers and coastal areas, these waters have been important resources for generations of communities across Waterford, and we need to ensure this continues into the future”.
What’s in the Plan?
This River Basin Management Plan builds on lessons learned over the past decade and sets out the new approach that will be taken to protect our natural waters up to 2021, these include:
- Stronger and more effective delivery structures to build the foundations and momentum for long-term improvements to water quality.
- New structures to bring together public agencies and organisations involved with water management.
- The newly-established Waters and Communities Office will help people to get involved in improving water quality in their local areas.
- An Fóram Uisce is a newly established forum for stakeholders, community groups and sectoral interests to discuss water issues and put forward policy recommendations. Among the main actions that will be taken through the Plan are:
- There is now a greater evidence base around water quality across County Waterford as a result of surveys and investigations by the Environmental Protection Agency, Inland Fisheries Ireland and Waterford County Council.
- Improved waste water treatment: €1.7 billion in investment by Irish Water in over 250 waste water treatment projects between 2017 and 2021.
- 43 new specialist scientists will join local authority personnel in carrying out investigative assessments of water bodies and in delivering local improvement measures.
- A new collaborative Sustainability and Advisory Support Programme: this partnership between the State and the dairy industry, consisting of 30 Sustainability Advisers, will promote best farming practice in 190 areas chosen for action, for up to 5,000 farmers.
- Dairy Sustainability Initiative to help improve water quality: 18,000 dairy farmers to receive advice on sustainable farming practices in the 190 areas for action.
- Extension of the Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems grant scheme: the scheme will assist with the costs of septic tank remediation in High Status water areas.
- A Blue Dot Catchments Programme: the new programme will create a network of excellent river and lake areas. Agencies will work together to protect or restore excellent water quality in these water bodies.
- A new Community Water Development Fund: this will enable and support community water initiatives.If you would like more information on the plan or to apply for funding under the Community Water Development Fund you can contact the Waters & communities Office at 0761 065 262
- The Plan has been published following three formal phases of public consultation, over 120 public meetings, over 2,000 submissions from all interested parties, and meetings with representative bodies and stakeholders. It is available for viewing online at http://www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/rbmp_full_reportweb.pdf