Almost a third of rivers and a quarter of estuaries are polluted, a new report revealed today.
It was also revealed that 15% of lakes were contaminated to some extent, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) state of the environment report.
But Environment Minister John Gormley assured the country’s environment watchdog the Government remained committed to tackling water pollution despite facing one of the tightest budgets in years.
“We have reports coming from all over the country about pressure on drinking water sources and pollution of rivers and lakes,” Mr Gormley said at the launch.
“We have to continue with investment because the difficulties are well-know to most people.
“It is a quality of life issue and a health issue.”
Water quality has become a massive issue for the Government to tackle over the last 18 months with Galway, Limerick, Louth and Tipperary all affected by contaminated or polluted supplies.
Sixty residents in Thurles were today issued with unfit water notices after elevated lead levels were detected.
East Limerick residents were warned not to use their tap water last August after high levels of nitrate were found in the supply.
In other cases of contamination tens of thousands of Galway residents were left without tap water after the crytosporidium outbreak in 2007 and several old neighbourhoods in the city were hit by a lead pollution scare last month.
A similar problem with the ageing lead water pipes in Louth has also been detected.
The EPA’s state of the environment report revealed just under half of the 66 polluted lakes surveyed over a two-year period had high levels of pollution while 21 were moderately contaminated.
One third of 3,000 rivers examined were polluted while 15 estuaries and coastal areas were also affected.
The influential body revealed worrying levels of nitrate, one of the most common water supply contaminants, were detected in the east and south east of the country.
“Our rivers, our lakes and our water sources are under more pressure,” continued Mr Gormley.
“We are absolutely convinced this is a key area, the whole question of water. So in my view, investment in the water services programme must continue and increase.”
Nitrate is a colourless and odourless chemical which usually comes from agricultural sources such as fertilisers and manure storage.
It is considered very dangerous, especially to infants who are extremely susceptible to lead poisoning because of certain bacteria that may live in their digestive system.