Catchment News

An Fóram Uisce: CAP reform and water quality – webinar 4 December

The Water Forum are holding an online panel discussion at 10:00 on Friday 4 December on CAP Reform and water quality.

The webinar will start with a presentation from Dr Charles Larkin, from the Institute of Policy research at Bath University, on Optimising Water Quality returns from the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. This paper can be accessed on An Fórum Usice’s website.

A panel of experts will respond to Dr Larkin’s research which was commissioned by An Fóram Uisce, followed by Questions and Answers moderated by Dr Tom Collins, Chair of An Fóram Uisce.

Tickets are free and can be booked now:

The speakers

Charles Larkin is Director of Research at the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Bath and is also an adjunct assistant professor at Trinity College Dublin, Johns Hopkins University and the Institute of Public Administration (Dublin). Charles holds non-executive director positions on the governing authority of Technological University Dublin and the Board of Accounting Technicians Ireland. Dr Larkin has authored several items of Irish legislation and over 60 scholarly articles, most especially in the areas of finance, cryptocurrencies and public policy economics.

Alan Matthews is Professor Emeritus of European Agricultural Policy at Trinity College Dublin. He is a former President of the European Association of Agricultural Economics and currently a member of the Irish Climate Change Advisory Council. He blogs on agricultural policy issues at

John Fitzgerald is an Honorary Fellow of Trinity College Dublin, an Adjunct Professor in the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, University College Dublin, and Chairperson of the Irish Government’s Climate Change Advisory Council. He is a former research professor at the Economic and Social Research Institute.

Lee Ann Jackson is the Head of the Agro-Food Trade and Markets Division in the Trade and Agriculture Directorate (TAD) at the OECD. She joined the OECD in 2020 after 16 years at the WTO where her most recent position was as Counsellor of Food and Agricultural Policy Research in the Economic Research and Statistics Division. Dr Jackson was previously the Secretary to the WTO’s Committee on Agriculture in the Agriculture and Commodities Division.

Michele McCormack joined Teagasc in 2012 and has been working as the Socio-Economic researcher with Teagasc Agricultural Catchments since 2017. Her research interests includes environmental economics, particularly the relationship between agricultural production, farmer behaviour and water quality. Dr McCormack has also worked as an agricultural economist developing measures of total factor productivity at farm level.

Paper: Optimising Water Quality Returns from the Reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP): A Rapid Evidence Assessment Report

The Water Forum has published Dr Larkin’s paper. An extract from the Executive Summary is below:

The purpose of this study was to look at the effects of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) on the quality of Ireland’s water resources as defined and required under the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD). Ireland’s rivers and catchments have deteriorated over recent years and steps are being put in place now to develop an integrated land and landscape management structure to ensure that EU regulatory requirements are met while preserving the environment, the rural economy and achieving the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Fundamentally environmental problems are difficult to resolve due to their complexity in the public policy system. In this policy space we are discussing externalities – the by-products of another policy where the external and indirect costs are not appropriately accounted for and therefore constitute a market failure. The challenge of the rapid evidence review presented here is to address a complex problem, where multidisciplinary analysis is required to form policy recommendations.

Past policy proposals have been systematically siloed and treated as a question to be addressed at the level of the farmer via an environmental scheme, a subsidy, a regulation, a fine or some other incentive/disincentive structure that fits into the wider complex of the modern agriculture sector. While there are clear benefits to this approach there are also unintended consequences, which are difficult to resolve. The failures of many well-intended schemes in the past can be found in this non-systematic approach to policy formation and most importantly, implementation.

At the core of the agricultural policies investigated in this report is the role of the food system. The current food system is built on a dual requirement to provide cheap and plentiful food and to ensure for Europe a modicum of food self-sufficiency, reflecting the original intent of the Common Agricultural Policy. The reality is that there is no such thing as “cheap” food. It is also a fact that no food system is simple, and all choices incur trade-off costs that necessitate dialogue and consultation, which An Fóram Uisce provides.

The fundamental conclusion from analyses reviewed and elite interviews was that a consensus has formed around the principle of public monies for public goods.

Learn more:

Read Dr Charles Larkin’s paper for The Water Forum

Who is involved?

Quite simply, everyone in Ireland has a role to play. This can be from something as simple as making sure you don’t pollute your local stream, or a local community working together to establish a Rivers Trust to enhance the rivers and lakes in their area, to a Government Department or Agency helping a Minister implement a new policy to help protect and enhance all our water bodies.

This website has been developed and is maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency, and is a collaboration between the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Local Authority Waters Programme.


Local Authority Waters Programme

The Local Authority Waters Programme coordinates the efforts of local authorities and other public bodies in the implementation of the River Basin Management Plan, and supports local community and stakeholder involvement in managing our natural waters, for everyone’s benefit.


Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA is responsible for coordinating the monitoring, assessment and reporting on the status of our 4,829 water bodies, looking at trends and changes, determining which waterbodies are at risk and what could be causing this, and drafting environmental objectives and measures for each.


Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage

The Department is responsible for making sure that the right policies, regulations and resources are in place to implement the Water Framework Directive, and developing a River Basin Management Plan and Programme of Measures that will be implemented after public consultation and sign off by the Minister.