Councils swamped by water responsibilities

Local authorities in Ireland say they are being overwhelmed by the requirements of new legislation to protect and improve waterways.

Councils are worried they do not have sufficient resources to meet their responsibilities for implementing and monitoring the progress of the EU Water Framework Directive.

Speaking at the Irish Water, Waste and Environment show in Dublin, Councillor John O’Connor, of Kerry County Council, said local authorities need more money to help them meet their responsibilities.

The directive, which came into force into 2000, aims to protect and enhance inland and coastal waters, promote sustainable water use and contribute to reducing the impact of floods and droughts.

In Ireland, implementation of the regulations is co-ordinated at a national level by the environment department and Environmental Protection Agency, and carried out at a local level by River Basin District Advisory Councils, which include representatives of the relevant local councils.

Councillor O’Connor said: “We are great at putting committees together to carry out functions, but we are not great at resourcing them.”

He added: “We have to look at other authorities in Europe and how they are funding it and we have to become innovative.”

Colin Byrne, of the water inspectorate at the Irish government’s environment department, said the government recognised the problem.

“We are keenly aware that local authorities are being dumped on,” he said.

“There’s a lot of new legislation and new functions coming out and not necessarily the resources to go with them.”

But he argued that local authorities needed to find economies of scale, such as employing specialist staff that can serve a number of authorities.

Kate Martin

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