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An Fóram Uisce – The Water Forum: inspiring, informing, educating and challenging us all to act for clean and healthy waters

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Gretta McCarron tells us about The Water Forum, and some new faces who have just joined. The forum represents water stakeholders, with nominees from up to 50 organisations. The work of the members of An Fóram Uisce is focussed on inputting into the review and development of national policies and developing An Fóram’s own work programme.

Since its establishment in June 2018, An Fóram Uisce – The Water Forum has been busy developing its own Strategic Plan and contributing to the review and development of policies and programmes pertaining to water services and our water environment.

The 27 Fóram members represent a wide range of stakeholders with an interest in our water services and water resources including Irish Water consumers, rural water, business interests, education, agriculture, fisheries, forestry, trade unions, water sports and activities and environmental organisations. Nominated from up to 50 organisations, the members are led by their Chairperson, Dr Tom Collins and have developed their vision for water quality in Ireland where:

Ireland will have clean and healthy waters, capable of supporting biodiversity and providing the basis for a positive and healthy economic and cultural life.

An Fóram’s mission is to ensure that all stakeholders and individuals are regularly reminded of their role in achieving this vision. As An Fóram’s membership is reflective of various stakeholders who sometimes hold different perspectives from economic, social and environmental viewpoints, it is important that An Fóram works in a collaborative manner to address on-going challenges in water management in Ireland.

Underpinning this vision is a desire to inspire, inform, educate and challenge stakeholders to realise the goal of clean and healthy waters. The challenges for water services and water quality in Ireland include, but are not limited to increasing demand for water, regional scarcity, poor quality of water bodies, impacts of climate change and preventing deterioration or gaining improvements. To satisfactorily address these challenges will require behavioural change from every individual user as well as effective national policies and strategies to protect water resources.

Neil Walker, IBEC; Dennis Drennan, ICMSA; Thomas Cooney, IFA; Suzanne Linnane, Dundalk IT; Derrie Dillon, Macra; Tim Butter, Irish Underwater Council, Tom Collins, (Chair); Thomas Harrington, Maigue Rivers Trust; Dominic Cronin, ICOS; Connie Rochford, Public Water Consumer; David Wright, Community & Voluntary sector; Sinead O’Brien, SWAN; Gerald Quain, Irish Rural Link; Sharon Kennedy, An Fóram Uisce.; Brendan Fitzsimons, Tree Council of Ireland; Tim Fenn, Irish Hotels Federation; Martin Mc Enroe, Anglers Association; Bernadette Connolly, Cork Environmental Forum; Keith Hyland, Public Water Customer. Absent from the picture is: Barry Deane, NFGWS; Joe Gallagher, NFGWS; Charles Stanley Smith, An Taisce; Elaine McGoff, An Taisce; Laurie Kearon, Public Water Consumer, Ollan Herr ZWAI and Liam Berney, ICTU.

The work of the members of An Fóram is focussed on inputting into the review and development of national policies by Government Departments, National Agencies and Irish Water and also developing An Fóram’s own work programme. The Members actively review various issues and policies arising at national level from their own perspectives and also collectively, endeavouring to reach a consensus on recommendations. All submissions developed by An Fóram are published on our website.

An Fóram’s Strategic Plan for 2018-2021 has 7 strategic themes. These themes are focused on adding value to national policy pertaining to the water environment and water services. To develop its understandings and enrich its contributions, An Fóram has commenced a research programme which will assist it to inform and lead the debate on national water policies.

Water conservation and protection is key to delivering on An Fóram’s vision. Therefore, an important strategic priority is to lead a programme of public awareness and education on the value of water. By promoting public awareness of and engagement with, the vulnerability of the water resource, An Fóram will support behavioural and attitude change.

In recent months, two new members of staff have been appointed to work with An Fóram’s members in the delivery of its work programme. Dr Alec Rolston is tasked with leading the research programme to identify research gaps on key priority thematic areas including drinking water source protection, nutrient pollution, high status water bodies, hydromorphology and invasive species. Alec is also interested in the socio- economic impact of public participation in water management. Alec’s research will enable An Fóram to make informed contributions to policy and to lead the debate on improving water quality Ireland. With Alec’s support, An Fóram aims to facilitate a dynamic interplay between and within science, policy, programme delivery and water stakeholders across Ireland.

Dr Gretta McCarron is leading the Communications and Education programmes with An Fóram. Many agencies and organisations are currently providing excellent education and awareness programmes for water quality, conservation and habitats across the country. Gretta hopes to collaborate with organisations and agencies to widen the scope and depth of delivery to ensure all individuals, businesses and stakeholders are given the opportunity to value our water resources. Monitoring and evaluation of programmes will be important to measure behavioural change as well as the impacts of community engagement in protecting our water resources. An Fóram is keen to assess the public’s attitude to our water resource and add value to current community action such as the tidy towns and pride of place initiatives.

The challenges facing Ireland in terms of water and waste water services and also the protection of its water resources are well documented. An Fóram, with its diverse composition, is unique in its capacity to direct the debate, identify decision making priorities, push for more ambitions strategies and empower, individually and collectively, all members of society to act to protect, conserve and value water resources across this island.

At a time when Ireland is awakening to the reality of climate change and the impacts of the neglect of its natural resources, An Fóram’s role in advising how these issues might best be addressed has never been more important or relevant. To quote Oscar Wilde, ‘We know the cost of everything and the value of nothing’.

An Fóram is tasked with reminding us all of the value of our water resources which can no longer be taken for granted. Since its establishment, An Fóram has been assisted and supported by Sharon Kennedy who has recently left. An Fóram would like to take this opportunity to wish Sharon every success in her new role and to thank her for her dedication and enthusiasm in her work with An Fóram. Sharon has been by Donal Purcell who looks forward to working with An Fóram’s Chair, Members and Staff.

Gretta McCarron, Communications and Education Lead, An Fóram Uisce

Learn more:

www.nationalwaterforum.ie

Twitter: @Forum_Water

You can contact Gretta at gretta@nationalwaterforum.ie and Alec at alec@nationalwaterforum.ie

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.

LAWCO

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.

EPA

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.

DECLG

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.