The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government has published the (second) River Basin Management Plan 2018-2021 for Ireland. An earlier RBMP had been published. This second RBMP plans on the basis that Ireland is defined as a single River Basin District – the Ireland RBD (NOT including Northern Ireland). The areas bordering Northern Ireland are included in two other River Basin Districts – the North Western RBD and the Neagh Bann RBD that are run from Northern Ireland (part of the UK, a separate country and currently exiting the EU).
The River Basin Management Plan for Ireland 2018-2021 is here.
[The Neagh Bann River Basin Management Plan 2015-2021 is here.]
[The North Western River Basin Management Plan 2015-2021 is here.]
RBMPs set out the actions that an EU member state will take to improve water quality and achieve ‘good’ ecological status in water bodies (rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters) by 2027. EU member states are required to produce river basin management plans under the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD).
BREXIT : it is not yet clear how River Basin Management planning will occur in the UK going forward. I will issue a separate Blog on this, when there is further information.
Water quality in Ireland has deteriorated over the past two decades. This second RBMP provides a more coordinated framework for improving the quality of waters — to protect public health, the environment, water amenities and to sustain water-intensive industries, including agri-food and tourism, particularly in rural Ireland.
The Irish River Basin District (RBD) covers an area of 70,273km2, with 46 catchment management units — consisting of 583 sub-catchments, with 4,829 water bodies. With regard to protected areas within the District, there are 140 designated bathing waters, 64 shell fish waters, 47 nutrient sensitive areas and 358 special areas of conservation (SACs) with water dependency. These SACs are geographically concentrated along the western seaboard – with a significant overlap between high-status waters and SACs. The RBD has a population of around 4.76 million, with 33% of people living in cities, 29% in towns and 38% in rural areas. The requirement for water and waste-water services reflects these spatial patterns. Nationally, the economy is strongly export-focused, but the sectoral drivers of economic growth across the RBD are diverse – with the agriculture and food sectors being particularly important in rural areas.
Key measures during the first RBMP included the licensing of urban waste-water discharges (with an associated investment in urban waste-water treatment) and the implementation of the Nitrates Action Programme (Good Agricultural Practice Regulations). The urban waste-water licensing made significant progress in terms both of compliance levels and of the impact of urban waste-water on water quality. The Nitrates Action Programme created an environmental baseline which all Irish farmers must achieve and has resulted in improving trends in the level of nitrates and phosphates in rivers and groundwater.
This second RBMP will establish :
(1) an Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advisory Programme to be implemented by 30 new Advisors — funded by Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (DHPLG), Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) and the dairy co- ops — who will work under Teagasc and the dairy co-ops. The Advisors will work on a one-to-one basis with farmers to bring about behavioural change through improved agricultural practices in areas which have identified pressures on water bodies.
(2) Local Authority Support and Advisory Teams to carry out scientific assessments and to drive the implementation of mitigation measures at local level. Recruitment of investigative assessment personnel commenced in Quarter 1 2018 and provision has been made for up to 43 specialist staff to be in place by mid-2018. These resources will be assigned across the five regions.
(3) Agri-environment schemes implemented through the Rural Development Programme (RDP) to lead to investment in manure storage and improved nutrient utilisation. In particular, the targeted approach to the Green, Low-Carbon, Agri- Environment Scheme (GLAS), which has 50,000 participants, is intended to ensure appropriate supporting measures on farms to protect and improve water quality.
(4) improved compliance with the existing Good Agriculture Practice Regulations through implementation of the enhanced Nitrates Action Programme (NAP) for 2018–2021 and of the associated inspection regime. The Programme entails new strengthened water- protection measures, focused on intercepting and breaking nutrient transport pathways and on preventing sediment and nutrient losses to waters.
(5) a National Inspection Plan 2018–21 for domestic waste-water treatment systems, currently being finalised by the EPA – this will use the outputs of the catchment characterisation work to further improve the risk-based approach to inspection of septic tanks. It is expected that approximately 1,000 inspections will be carried out by local authorities nationally each year.
(6) significant planned investment in urban waste-water collection and treatment infrastructure. Over the period 2017–2021, the plan is for Irish Water to invest approximately €1.7 billion in waste-water projects, programmes and asset maintenance.
(7) a register of water abstractions (held by the DPHLG), who will consult on a proportionate and risk-based framework for the regulation of abstractions to ensure continued sustainable use of our water resources. The EPA will continue work on assessing risk due to abstractions, making use of new information as it emerges during the second cycle.