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Shocking EPA Report on Pristine Waters


The EPA has recently published what has to be seen as a shocking report on the status of our high ecological quality river sites. The report was prepared under the EPA’s STRIVE programme. The report confirms a serious decline in the number of high quality river sites. Between 1998 and 2007 there has been a 48% decline in the number of High status sites (Q5 or Q4-5 sites, based on macroinvertebrate biological quality monitoring).

The Water Framework Directive (WFD) was brought into force in Ireland in 2000. One of the main aims of the WFD is to ensure that waters classified as Good or High status would not be allowed to deteriorate. Those below Good status (Poor and Bad) are to be improved to Good status by 2027 at the latest.

The report confirms that not enough coordinated action has taken place to halt the decline of our high status sites. Much of the blame for this inaction has been laid at the door of the EPA itself. The report recommends;

-       High status catchment delineation and prioritisation of protection measures;

-       The establishment of a monitoring system by the EPA;

-       The establishment of a coordinated approach to planning, agricultural, industrial and recreational activities in high status catchments;

-       That more emphasis is placed on high status bodies as opposed to bringing Poor and Bad status water bodies to Good status;

-       That County Development Plans should reflect the sensitivity of High status water bodies.

Given that the current situation is a clear breach of the WFD it is highly likely that Ireland will again be prosecuted for its failure to comply with European legislation. To date the EPA seems to have focused on its role in monitoring, as opposed to protecting, the environment. We now have a bank of data showing the decline of our river systems. Surely it is time for a coordinated approach to halt this decline. The EPA is the only body in a position to make this happen. The report can be downloaded here