The Irish government has promised what ministers are claiming will be a new and more coordinated framework for improving water quality and achieving good ecological status for the country’s groundwater, rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters.
This pledge is central to the latest River Basin Management Plan, just published, which covers the period up to 2021 and was delayed while the highly political issue of water charges was resolved.
The blueprint concedes that water quality in the state had deteriorated over the past two decades and that the approach adopted in the first river basin management planning cycle was flawed. The key changes are that under this latest plan all the state is defined as a single river basin district and new delivery and governance arrangements are being established. The agricultural sector will be a particular focus for new initaives.
The proposals should see Irish Water investing €1.7bn in urban waste water treatment infrastructure by 2021 and a new farming support and advisory programme to promote best agricultural practice regarding water quality in 190 targeted areas.
With 45% of treated water unaccounted for, €73m a year is to be spent on helping reducing water leakage to 37% by 2021.
The blueprint is designed to see improvements in water quality in approximately 726 water bodies in Ireland: rivers, lakes, estuarine and coastal waters.
The plan suggests that the action programme will probably result in some 152 additional water bodies showing improvements in status by 2021.