In accordance with the Water Framework Directive, groundwater is classified according to its chemical and quantitative status. The most recent EPA report Ireland’s Environment 2012 – An Assessment states that the majority of groundwater bodies ( 85.6% ) are in good status as required under the Water Framework Directive. The general reduction in nitrate concentrations in groundwater observed in recent years has been attributed to the dilution effect of increased rainfall, reductions in inorganic fertiliser, improvements in organic fertiliser storage and the implementation of land-spreading restrictions.
Groundwater quality is dependent to a large extent on the quality of surface water and so the upgrading of septic tanks and of waste water treatment plants can be expected to contribute to improved groundwater quality.
The priorities in my Department’s Water Services Investment Programme include the provision of works required to comply with Water Framework Directive requirements, to improve sewage treatment and collection infrastructure in accordance with the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive, to respond to judgments of the European Court of Justice and to achieve environmental and public health objectives arising from various regulations and EPA reports dealing with water quality. A total of €328.7 million in Exchequer funding is being provided for water services capital investment this year including investment under the Rural Water Programme. My Department also provides funding from the Local Government Fund towards the operational costs of group water schemes.
Over the past decade, substantial improvements have been made in the group water sector, reflected in improved infrastructure and management and leading to greater compliance with water quality standards. This has been accomplished through a partnership approach between my Department, the water services authorities and the group water sector itself, with the support of the National Federation of Group Water Schemes. My Department is committed to ensuring that the substantial progress made in the group water sector is sustained over the coming years.
The implementation of the National Inspection Plan 2013: Domestic Wastewater Treatment Systems, published recently by the Environmental Protection Agency, will also contribute to the existing range of measures in place to improve and protect our water quality.