The main threat to water quality in Irish rivers and lakes is considered to be eutrophication arising from excessive inputs to waters of phosphorus from agriculture, industry, sewage treatment plants and other sources. Specific targets for improvement in water quality are set by the phosphorus regulations which I made in 1998 and which prescribe water quality standards to be achieved by end 2007.
The Environmental Protection Agency undertakes a wide range of advisory, licensing, monitoring, promotional, reporting, research and other activities to protect and improve water quality and is participating in the major catchment-based water quality management projects in relation to Loughs Derg and Ree, Lough Leane and the Rivers Boyne, Liffey and Suir. The agency is required, in carrying out its functions under the Environmental Protection Agency Act, 1992, and other enactments, to have regard to the need for a high standard of environmental protection and to keep itself informed of the policies and objectives of public authorities with related functions. The agency is also prohibited by the 1992 Act from granting a licence under the Act in relation to an activity unless it is satisfied that emissions from the activity will comply with, or will not result in a contravention of, prescribed quality standards for water.
The agency is an independent statutory body in the exercise of its statutory functions. The Minister is precluded by the 1992 Act from exercising any power or control in relation to the performance in particular circumstances by the agency of any function assigned to it by or under the Act.