Almost half of Irish rivers have a “less than good” ecological status, writes Joyce Fegan.
And although a reduction in “seriously polluted” waters has been achieved, there is, however, a “continued and unwelcome decline” in the number of pristine rivers.
Only 21 sites achieved the highest EU quality rating from 2013 to 2015, compared to over 500 water sources in the late 1980s. Six of Ireland's rivers are badly polluted, an environmental watchdog has warned.
The disclosures are outlined in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) national assessment of water quality.
The six rivers classed as badly polluted were:
19 rivers were classed as badly polluted in the 2007-2009 period.
The assessment, which covers the six-year period between 2010 and 2015, shows that 43% of monitored river water bodies had a less than good ecological status — which equates to 1,015 river water ‘bodies’.
Lakes, groundwater, coastal and transitional water bodies (estuaries) were assessed in the report, published today.
Only 24% of the surface area of monitored estuaries had a ‘high’ or ‘good’ status.
Furthermore, “hundreds of water bodies” around the country failed to meet quality standards.
However, the assessment is showing a continued reduction in the level of seriously polluted waters.
Overall, the report found nationally the quality of water sources has remained relatively the same since the last assessment.
Effectively, that was due to a cancelling-out effect. While the “worst of the worst” were almost eliminated, many of the pristine sites have declined in quality.
“While the national picture is relatively stable, some water bodies have improved while others have deteriorated, which highlights that not enough has been done to prevent deterioration of water quality,” said Andy Fanning, programme manager for the EPA’s evidence and assessment office.
The assessment concluded that while there has been little overall change in water quality, there has been a failure to meet the planned national target of 13% improvement in water status for the six-year period.
Matt Crowe, director of the EPA’s evidence and assessment office, reiterated the improvements but said steps now need to be taken to arrest any further decline in water quality.
“The good news is that we have almost eliminated the worst of the worst of polluted sites. The bad news is that the decline in our most pristine waters, the best of the best, has continued.
“We now need to put the necessary measures and resources in place to arrest any further deterioration of water status and to make necessary improvements,” said Dr Crowe.
“Decisions about what to do and who should do it and pay for it need to be based on scientific evidence and requires constructive engagement and collaboration across a wide range of stakeholders.
“By doing this, the right action can be taken in the right place by the right people and organisations,” he said.
The report also noted an increase in the number of reported fish kills, with 97 reported between 2013 and 2015, up 27 on the 2007-2009 period.
It said the reason is unclear but it may be due to extended dry spells and/or flooding events rather than increasing serious pollution spills that would have been the main cause of fish kills in the past.
The review found that the national target of 13% improvement in water status for the six-year period had been missed.
This report is the first full six-year assessment of the status of Irish waters under the Water Framework Directive which is a European Union directive which commits EU member states to achieve good qualitative and quantitative status of all water bodies by 2015.
This article first appeared in the [url=https://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/nearly-50-of-rivers-have-less-than-good-ecological-status-458043.html]Irish Examiner[/ur]. Additional reporting by the Press Assocaition.