Irish water quality improves for the first time in 30 years

Seventy percent of Ireland’s rivers are now classified as unpolluted, an improvement of 3% since 1997 according to a new report by the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) into water quality between 1998 and 2000.

This means that almost 400km of river channel that was previously polluted is not in satisfactory condition, with most of the improvements occurring in catchments with new anti-pollution measures, says the EPA.

Nevertheless, increased efforts are still required in order to bring water pollution under control, said the agency, with 30% of rivers still polluted, mostly due to phosphorus enrichment. A small number of rivers are still seriously polluted, said the EPA.

“For the first time since national surveys began nearly 30 years ago, we have succeeded in reducing the proportion of our waterways which suffer from pollution,” said Minister for the Environment and Local Government Noel Dempsey. “That we have achieved this during 1998-2000, a period which involved the peak of the Celtic Tiger phenomenon, is even more significant and shows that our catchment based strategy approach is yielding very real progress in breaking the link between economic growth and environmental degradation.”

Groundwaters have an unacceptably high level of contamination, with 38% showing faecal coliform contamination, says the EPA, advising that water from all private wells should be disinfected before being used for consumption.

“We are now extending the successful catchment-based strategy nationally to all waters – groundwaters, estuaries and coastal waters,” said Dempsey. “In five river basin districts, local authorities are establishing projects to provide much of the basic data for river basin management plans under the Water Framework Directive.”

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