Catchment News

Catchments Newsletter, Issue 12 – Winter 2019.

The latest issue of the Catchments Newsletter is now available to download.

You can read the editorial from this issue below.

As always, we’ll be adding the stories from the Newsletter to the website over the next few months. Your local Community Water Officer will also have hard copies available for interested community groups.

In this issue:

  • Waters and Communities News: Lough Carra marl lake and its marl crusts; Leitrim meeting on bogland and climate; Dublin Community Clean-up; Rossmore Park balasm bashing; Galway Waterways Foundation.
  • Articles: Water Quality in Ireland 2013-2018; European Environment Agency’s ‘The European environment – state and outlook 2020’; An Fóram Uisce – The Water Forum; Natural Water Retention Measures; Crayfish plague; Catch Crops; Smart Farming Water Guidance; WaterMARKE; NFGWS pollinator friendly pumphouses; Source to Tap on MCPA in their catchments; IPCC volunteer-led peatland restoration; and research on blanket bogs and invasive species. 

Winter 2019 Editorial

As we prepare to close out another decade, it is useful to reflect and take stock of where we are, what we have achieved, and what has still to be done on the journey towards achieving good outcomes for our water environment.

The latest EPA Water Quality in Ireland report, which looked at data from 2013 to 2018, has shown that only approximately half our surface water bodies are in satisfactory ecological condition, and that there is a continued decline in water quality overall, which is disappointing. Our estuaries and rivers have the greatest challenges: our estuaries are in the worst condition overall, and our rivers have suffered the greatest number of declines in ecological health in the recent monitoring period. We have also seen an increase in fish kills, an increase in nutrient concentrations, an increase in the number of waterbodies at Poor and Bad status, and a continued loss of high status sites.

However, it is not all bad news. Our groundwaters and coastal waters are in relatively good condition and there has been improvements in water quality in a number of lakes.

What is really encouraging is that there has been a net improvement in the 190 Areas that were prioritised for Action in the 2nd cycle River Basin Management Plan 2018-2021. This improvement highlights the on-going efforts of Local Authorities and other public bodies who have been working collaboratively to improve water quality during this monitoring period in these areas. So, it shows what can be done when the effort is targeted and focussed. You can read about the report on pages 14-16. You can also check water quality status for anywhere in the country on www.catchments.ie/maps and find trends and charts for nutrients for all water bodies on www.catchments.ie/data

With these latest water quality data in hand we are now also preparing to develop the 3rd cycle river basin management plan for the period 2022-2027. One of the key steps in the lead up the publication of the draft plan at the end of 2020 will be taking a deeper dive into the data with the local authorities and other public bodies, to figure out what measures have worked to drive these improvements, what has caused the local declines, and where the gaps are in knowledge or policy that need to be filled to move us forward. New Areas for Action will be proposed and will be published in the draft plan so that local communities can have their say. If there is one thing that is very clear, it is that we will all have a part to play, and we will all need to redouble our efforts if we want to reach our goal of having a healthy environment which we need to underpin our health and wellbeing, our livelihoods and our economy.

This sentiment is reflected in two very significant European reports that were published recently, the Commission’s fitness check of EU Water Policy and the European Environment Agency’s State and Outlook report The EU Commission has carried out a review of several large pieces of water policy including the Water Framework Directive, and has concluded that it is ‘overall fit for purpose, with some room for enhanced effectiveness. Despite improvements in the protection of water bodies and flood risk management, the evaluation has pointed to insufficient level of implementation by Member States and by sectors with a heavy impact on water such as agriculture, energy and transport’. So as far as the Commission are concerned, we are going in the right direction but we are not moving fast enough.

The European Environment Agency has a similar message in their State and Outlook report. They say that the environmental challenges facing us are ‘of unprecedented scale and urgency’ and ‘at a tipping point’. They state that:

‘Europe will not achieve its 2030 goals without urgent action during the next 10 years… The SOER 2020 comes at a crucial time of urgent sustainability challenges that require urgent systemic solutions. The overarching challenge of this century is how we achieve development across the world that balances societal, economic and environmental considerations. Sustainability needs to become the guiding principle for ambitious and coherent policies and actions across society’.

“The focus now must be on scaling up, speeding up, streamlining and implementing the many solutions and innovations — both technological and social — which already exist, while stimulating additional research and development, catalysing behavioural shifts and, vitally, listening to and engaging with citizens”.

EEA Executive Director Hans Bruyninckx

The EPA is currently preparing the next Irish State of the Environment report which is due to be published in 2020. Reflecting on the EEA report as context for our Irish assessment, Laura Burke, EPA Director-General said:

“We in Ireland are living beyond our carbon and environmental means and, like our European counterparts, are signed up to shared international targets to meet our sustainability challenges. As the EPA prepares to publish a national four-year assessment of our environment in 2020, indications are that many of the issues highlighted by the EEA chime with many of the challenges we are facing in Ireland. These include persistent and complex issues in the areas of water quality, air quality in urban zones, resource use, climate change, biodiversity, ecosystem loss, and environmental risks to health and well-being.”

We have learnt a lot from the 2nd cycle river basin management plan. We have seen the early signs of the benefits of taking a collaborative approach and working together in these Areas for Action to get the right measure in the right place. We have the structures and many of the tools in place. Communities are engaging as you can see from the wonderful stories and achievements that are reported in this, and every, issue. We must now just all get our shoulders to the wheel.

Jenny Deakin and Paddy Morris, EPA Catchment Science and Management Unit

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, Planning and Local Government

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.