Nearly 50% of rivers have ‘less than good’ ecological status

Almost half of Irish rivers have a “less than good” ecological status.

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.

The disclosures are outlined in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) national assessment of water quality.

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.

The assessment is showing a continued reduction in the level of seriously polluted waters.

Only six river water bodies were categorised as ‘bad’ in 2010–2015 compared to 19 in the period 2007-2009.

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.

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.


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