Ireland’s Environment – An Assessment 2012Water Martin McGarrigle 27 June 2012
Ireland’s Environment 2012 - Water The Current Situation Drivers and Pressures Responses Outlook
Water - The Current Situation Groundwater Rivers Lakes Transitional and Coastal Waters
Groundwater Quality 85.6% of the area of groundwater aquifers is at good status
Groundwater Quality GW 25% Drinking Water GW affects ecology of rivers & estuaries - low flows - sea lettuce) GW influenced by SW phosphates in karst areas especially Nitrate Concentrations are influenced by rainfall variation from year to year Microbial pathogens are an important consideration – 40% of all samples taken from 285 wells and springs – a threat to private water supplies in particular
River Water Quality • 71% of river channel is at high or good status • Serious pollution almost gone • Slight and Moderate pollution stabilised ~29%
Loss of Highest Quality Waters • High Status waters still declining • They are easily degraded but it’s very important to protect them.
Lake Water Quality • 46.6% of lakes monitored are at high or good status • The main form of pollution is still eutrophication or over- enrichment with phosphate and nitrate. • Rivers flow into lakes carrying nutrients – need to implement measures in their catchments upstream.
Lake Water Quality – International Comparisons
Quality of Transitional and Coastal Waters46% of transitional and coastal waters are athigh or good status.
Quality of Transitional and Coastal Waters Transitional Waters in Top 5 across Europe Under pressure due to coastal population Coastal Waters Among the best in Europe 70% achieve high or good status Urban Wastewater is the biggest threat Some big improvements seen – e.g. Sligo WWTP Nitrogen from Agricultural Sources Argideen near Courtmacsherry – sea lettuce
Responses River Basin Management Plans - Programme of Measures
Programme of Measures boil down to six actions 1. Controlling the inputs of phosphorus and nitrogen to waters. 2. Controlling inputs of oxygen using matter (e.g. silage, milk waste, sewage). 3. Controlling pathogens in water. 4. Complete elimination of dangerous substances (priority substances) and control of specific pollutants to protect aquatic communities and human health. 5. Ensuring that there is a sufficient volume of water in all our water bodies. 6. Controlling hydromorphological conditions (physical characteristics of the shape and boundaries of the water body) both in-stream and along riparian zones.
Tackling Pollution Diffuse Pollution Agriculture – farmyards and fields Good Agricultural Practice Domestic Wastewater Treatment Systems (septic tanks) Registration and Inspections under Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012 Forestry – planting, fertilising, clear felling, acidification Forest and Water Guidelines, Acid Sensitive Protocol, Hen Harrier, Unenclosed Land Large Point Source Pollution Licensing of large Urban Wastewater Treatment Plants Certification of smaller (<500 pe) WWTPs Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Licensing Water Pollution Act - Section 4 licences
Urban Wastewater 93% of urban waste water discharges in Ireland received secondary treatment or better. 11 large urban areas do not meet the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (UWWTD) requirement to have secondary treatment in place. Bray and Ringaskiddy, Clifden, Moville, Eight urban areas do not meet the UWWTD requirement to provide nutrient reduction in addition to secondary treatment This includes the cities of Dublin, Cork and Kilkenny. 46% of waste water treatment plants did not meet all waste water quality standards or EPA guidelines.
Eliminating Serious Pollution The extent of serious pollution of rivers has been reduced significantly in recent years. In 2004–2006, 39 sites were categorised as seriously polluted. In 2007–2009 this had dropped to 20 sites. By 2011 there was a further significant reduction to 11 sites. Currently, approximately 18 km of river channel remains seriously polluted from a total length of 13,200 km surveyed.
Outlook We have reduced serious pollution Need to tackle slight and moderate pollution on a site by site basis – point or diffuse pollution Lakes will respond to reduced nutrient inputs from rivers Improvements in Coastal areas due to new Urban WWTP Still 42 coastal towns requiring upgrading Reduction of riverine nutrient inputs also important Groundwater status dependent on surface waters Improvements in rivers will bring some GWs up in status too. Longer term in some cases and some e.g. mine wastes may be more intractable
Outlook Protection of High Status waters - very important Food Harvest 2020 brings new challenges Business as usual will mean more pollution Decouple intensity of agriculture from potential impacts Preventing direct cattle access to water for example Nutrient management plans Buffer zones at potential ‘hot spots’ or critical source areas Governance of Water Framework Implementation Three tier strategy proposed
Water Framework Governance Tier 1: National Management and Oversight: Led by the DECLG, the main emphasis would be on: preparation of policy and national regulations steering the WFD implementation at a national level addressing funding priorities, including integrating the Water Services Investment Programme and WFD programmes of measures national-level interaction with Irish Water planning and development coordination related to water quality issues.
Water Framework Governance Tier 2: National Technical Implementation and Reporting: Led by the EPA, the activities would focus principally on: monitoring, assessment and reporting production of River Basin Management Plans evaluation and implementation of measures monitoring of enforcement tasks and environmental outcomes.
Water Framework Governance Tier 3: Regional Implementation via Water Networks: Led by the lead local authority within the RBD, this level would address: public awareness and participation implementation of Programmes of Measures by relevant public bodies, tracking and reporting, in consultation with EPA local authority monitoring, licensing and enforcement actions follow-up investigative monitoring aimed at pin-pointing sources of pollution.