Written Answers. - Ground Water Quality.

Tony Killeen


319 Mr. Killeen asked the Minister for the Environment the studies, if any, undertaken on ground water quality; and if so, if the quality has seriously deteriorated. [16220/96]

Monitoring of groundwaters by local authorities has been generally in the context of the implementation of Council Directives 80/778/EEC and 91/676/EEC dealing respectively with the quality of drinking water and the pollution of waters by nitrates from agriculture. In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency has recently commenced a programme of monitoring to obtain representative data on a national basis which will be used to define the state of groundwater, to detect trends in groundwater quality and to assess the causes of any changes observed. The Environmental Protection Agency has selected a network of almost 300 groundwater abstraction points, taking account of hydrogeological and other relevant conditions, for this purpose. The agency, acting in collaboration with local authorities, will sample twice yearly for a range of water quality parameters.

Relevant results from these monitoring efforts are incorporated in the agency's annual reports on the quality of drinking water in Ireland and are reflected in the State of the Environment in Ireland. The results of the agency's recently commenced representative monitoring programme for groundwater will be presented separately when sufficient data become available.

Data on groundwater resources, including the mapping and characterisation of aquifers and quality aspects, is also maintained by the Geological Survey of Ireland.

The available information indicates that groundwaters in Ireland are generally of a high quality, although localised contamination has occurred in some areas due mainly to pollution from farmyards and septic tank systems. There is also evidence of increased nitrate concentrations above background levels in intensively farmed areas due to the application of fertilisers. However, these levels do not at present pose a serious threat to the quality of drinking water abstracted from groundwater. Farmers can help reduce nitrate levels by observing the code of good agricultural practice to protect waters from pollution by nitrates which I launched, jointly with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry, last July.