Water is a precious resource, and is essential for all…
Public Consultation on the draft River Basin Management Plans for Ireland 2018-2021
The overarching aim of the Water Framework Directive is to achieve at least good status for all water bodies. It aims to do so by ensuring effective water management based on river basins and catchments.
Whilst this requires Government to devise and implement plans and programmes, it also requires all agencies and actors to work together, and the further development of a wider public engagement in water policy and water management.
A central element of the Directive is the requirement for member states to produce River Basin Management Plans. These plans must, amongst other things, assess the environmental pressures causing water bodies to be at risk of not meeting the objectives of the Directive, for example, pressures causing water bodies to be at less than good status. Based on this assessment a programme of measure must be developed to address the significant pressures on such water bodies.
Draft River Basin Management Plan – Public Consultation
The Directive sets out 6 yearly planning cycles. Ireland’s first cycle plan covered the period 2009-2015, and a draft second cycle River Basin Management Plan has recently been published for public consultation. As required, this draft plan provides an assessment of the pressures on the water environment in Ireland, and the proposed programme of measures to be implemented in the period to 2021.
The plan identifies prioritised objectives, including meeting our EU obligations, preventing deterioration of water bodies, and achieving protected area and high status water body objectives. Based on these significant pressures and the prioritised objectives, proposed measures are set out for each of the identified significant pressures including agriculture, waste water, hydromorphology, forestry and peat extraction. Proposed implementation structures, and planned actions for communication and public engagement are also set out.
The types of measures outlined in the draft plan fall into two broad categories.
Firstly, those high level measures to be implemented by national authorities, for example, ensuring effective waste water treatment is in place and ensuring appropriate application of EUregulations in sectors such as agriculture and forestry. It is envisaged such plans and programmes will result in significant progress during the second cycle in terms of managing pressures on the water environment.
Secondly, there are supporting measures, which are required where these high level measures have been implemented, but are not sufficient to ensure good water quality in specific areas. The draft plan envisages that local authorities will lead in terms of decision making and managing implementation of these supporting measures, supported by the expertise and evidence base of the EPA.
However, the plan also recognises the need for stakeholders including local authorities, public authorities, non-governmental organisations and communities to cooperate and work together to achieve common goals. The Local Authority Waters and Communities Office will have a vital role in making such co-operation a reality on the ground – as will the continued work of the EPA in developing networks and engagement on water quality issues.
There has already been significant consultation with stakeholders including environmental organisations in terms of developing this draft plan and the proposed programme of measures. Further engagement with stakeholders will be central to developing the final plan. We hope that the consultation process will also provide an opportunity for wider engagement with water management issues, and that individuals, community groups and schools can engage with the plan and inform us as to how the plan can be improved, and how we can better facilitate their engagement in the implementation of this plan and the objective of improving the water environment.
Where to read the draft River Basin Management Plan and make a submission
Whilst the consultation is open for 6 months, until the end of August 2017, we would encourage early submissions to allow us to consider how the final plan can best reflect the input of interested parties.