New €8.25 million Irish river basin management scheme

There is to be a new river basin monitoring and management scheme in the south east of Ireland, the Irish Government has announced, with the Department for the Environment and Local Government providing all of the €8.25 million funding that will be required.

The objective of the project will be to provide the bulk of the data needed for the development of a river basin management plan for the area, identifying all significant impacts on water quality and quantity. The project will be led by Carlow County Council on behalf of the ten councils in the region. The major river systems in the area, which will be covered by the scheme, are the Rivers Slaney, Barrow, Nore and Suir, and the programme will also include groundwater, estuaries and coastal water to a distance of one nautical mile.

Recently, it was announced that 70% of Ireland’s rivers are now classified as unpolluted, a 3% improvement on 1997’s river quality – the first time there has been an improvement in river quality since the beginning of the 1970s (see related story). Nevertheless, this still leaves 30% of rivers classified as polluted, mostly due to phosphate enrichment, and a small number are seriously polluted. Groundwaters also have an unacceptably high level of contamination – 38% with faecal coliform contamination, according to the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“This co-operative, regional initiative, led by local authorities, will make a significant contribution towards implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive,” said Minister for the Environment and Local Government Noel Dempsey. “The Directive requires that water quality planning and management be co-ordinated by all competent authorities on the basis of river basins. It sets a very demanding timescale for implementation and involves a heavy workload to achieve specified targets on a phased basis by 2015.”

As well as Carlow, the counties that will be participating in the scheme are: Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Offaly, Tipperary North, Tipperary South, Waterford, Wexford and Wicklow.

Now that the scheme has been announced, the councils can go ahead and appoint consultants, an Environment Department spokesperson told edie. The councils will be involving a range of stakeholders in the programme, including representatives from the EPA and the Fisheries Board.

Management of the River Suir catchment currently falls under the Three Rivers Project, and in order to facilitate a smooth transition, essential elements of this scheme will be maintained until full commencement of the new South East River Basin Management Project, says the Department for the Environment.

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