March 22nd marks World Water Day 2022. Held every year since 1993, the day highlights the importance of fresh water and the sustainable management of this precious resource. This year’s event focusses on groundwater quality. To mark this occasion, the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD and Minister of State with responsibility for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD, have issued a final reminder urging the public to engage with the draft River Basin Management Plan public consultation, which closes on March 31st 2022.
According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), 92% of our groundwater – the theme of this year’s UN World Water Day – has achieved good status or better. However, recent EPA reports have indicated that nitrate concentrations in our groundwater are increasing. In the words of the 2020 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate, groundwater expert John Cherry, groundwater is “the Earth’s life support system.” It regulates the freshwater cycle, acting a giant sponge that can absorb surplus water and mitigate shortages, making it of vital importance in terms of adaptation to climate variability.
Of significant concern is the fact that Ireland is now experiencing a sustained decline in water quality. From a total number of 4842 water bodies in Ireland, the status of our water in lakes, rivers and coastal waters as “good status” or better lies at between 50 and 53%. Overall, water quality is in decline due to a number of pressures including agricultural activity, hydromorphology and urban waste water. Key measures required to address the decline in water quality include reducing the loss of soil from farmland into water, reducing the physical impacts on waters caused by drainage measures barriers such as weirs and continued investment in urban and rural water services.
A key tool in the implementation of the Water Framework Directive (WFD), the next River Basin Management Plan will contain the programme of measures that will help Ireland protect, improve and sustainably manage our water environment to 2027. Achieving good water quality in our rivers, lakes, estuaries and seas is essential for protecting Ireland’s drinking water sources, environment and people’s quality of life. As part of our consultation process, over 1000 people have attended 63 regional meetings held by the Local Authority Water Programme (LAWPRO) throughout the country to receive information on the draft River Basin Management Plan and have their say on measures to improve water quality over the next five years. A programme of stakeholder engagement has also taken place through meetings with environmental NGOs, agricultural groups, Local Authorities and other water groups.
Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien T.D. said:
“I’m pleased to see the level of engagement so far with this public consultation and I encourage people to make a submission by March 31st. The challenges facing our water resources are real and urgent. The draft River Basin Management Plan is marked by its ambition to improve water quality and commitment to working with stakeholder groups to achieve this improvement.
The theme of this year’s World Water Day is groundwater. I’m heartened to say that of all our categories of water bodies, our groundwater quality is generally good. However that isn’t a reason for complacency and recent EPA data shows increased nitrate concentrations in our groundwater. Groundwater is essential to mitigating water shortage and with our changing climate, important in times of drought.”
Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan T.D. noted
“I strongly urge people to get involved with this public consultation and have their voices heard on this important topic. For the first time, since the river basin management process began in cycle 1 (2010-2015), we now have detailed estimates of the scale of mitigation measures required to significantly improve water quality and most importantly where those measures should be deployed. These estimates are based on detailed technical evidence generated by the EPA, local authorities, Inland Fisheries Ireland and other state agencies over the first two management cycles. The draft River Basin Management Plan intends to use this data to target measures in the best locations dependent on the nature of the problem putting in the ‘right measure in the right place.’ This data leaves us well placed to scale up our ambition to protect and improve Ireland’s water, to sustain communities, industries and our economy.”
Members of the public can submit their views on water quality via the public consultation here
About World Water Day
World Water Day is on 22 March every year. It is an annual United Nations Observance, started in 1993, that celebrates water and raises awareness of the 2 billion people currently living without access to safe water. A core focus of World Water Day is to inspire action towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030.
About the River Basin Management Plan
Under the EU Water Framework Directive, Ireland is required to produce a river basin management plan every 6 years to protect and improve water quality. The next plan will cover the period 2022-2027. This vital plan will set out the environmental objectives for water quality to be achieved by 2027 and identify the measures that will protect and restore our rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters, to ensure those objectives are achieved. The plan will also identify the bodies responsible for implementing these measures.
See www.gov.ie/draftRBMP for more information