Up to two-thirds of Ireland’s underground water is at risk of pollution, it was claimed today.
Bacteria was found in almost half of all samples taken between 2001 and 2003 and the Heritage Council warned more steps need to be taken to improve and preserve overall quality.
“Our water quality is in decline and it’s everybody’s responsibility to protect it,” said Beatrice Kelly from the Heritage Council.
Water Heritage Week, which begins on Saturday, aims to raise awareness of water as one of the most precious parts of our heritage and how people can help protect it.
Earlier this year the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI) completed a four-year project which mapped Ireland’s groundwater for the first time.
The project monitored Irish groundwater and assessed the impact of leakage from landfill sites, sewage plants and septic tanks and spreading agricultural fertilisers and chemicals on land.
It found that faecal coliforms were found at almost half of the sampling points.
It also identified groundwater which is at serious risk and the effects that new developments such as housing will have on the groundwater.
The Heritage Council believes that continuous moderate pollution from households, agricultural activities and dumps are now causing a serious decline in water quality.
New research carried out for the council also showed that people living in Ireland have low levels of awareness about water quality and the steps that need to be taken to improve it and help stop pollution.
While 80% of people are concerned about pollution of drinking water, 53% believe that water quality is not a problem in Ireland and almost half of those questioned believe that there are satisfactory systems in place to protect our lakes and rivers.
Over half said they are prepared to pay for the water they use at home and 65% agreed that taxpayers’ money should be used to improve and protect water.
Under the terms of the Water Framework Directive the Government must bring in water pricing policies that encourage all users, including domestic ones, to make more efficient use of water.
“The general public and farmers will need to play a major role to improve and protect our water,” said Ms Kelly of the Heritage Council.
“Just 16% of adults who took part in our research had heard of the Water Framework Directive.”
“This is of major concern because this EU legislation will effect everyone in the country and public participation is a major factor if we are to improve and protect our water quality and meet the requirements of this legislation”.
The Heritage Council has launched a free booklet and a poster which are available on www.heritagecouncil.ie.