The Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, oversees national programmes of monitoring and reporting on the quality of rivers, lakes, transitional and coastal waters and groundwater, including in relation to the Lee, Cork Harbour and Youghal Bay catchment. The EPA’s most recent published report in this regard is water quality in Ireland 2010 to 2015, which is available at the following link: www.epa.ie/pubs/reports/water/waterqua/waterqualityinireland2010-2015.html.
A range of measures to maintain and enhance water quality is set out in Ireland’s draft river basin management plan, RBMP, 2018 to 2021 which was published in February 2017 pursuant to the EU Water Framework Directive (Directive 2000/60/EC) for a mandatory six-month public consultation exercise. The draft RBMP, which is available at http://www.housing.gov.ie/water/water-quality/river-basin-management-plans/public-consultation-draft-river-basin-management, sets out national programmes of measures to meet the environmental objectives of the EU Water Framework Directive, including preventing the deterioration of water bodies and protecting, enhancing and restoring them to at least good status. The draft RBMP is currently being finalised, and I intend to publish the final plan in April 2018.
In respect of urban waste water pressures on water bodies, the principal measure involves compliance with the EU Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (Council Directive 91/271/EEC) and compliance with the EPA’s discharge license emission limit values. Investment for the period to 2021 has been prioritised by Irish Water based on ensuring appropriate levels of treatment for compliance with emission limit values, meeting the requirements for protected areas, and the elimination of raw sewage discharges where they occur.
With regard to domestic waste water treatment system pressures on water bodies, an important measure is the domestic waste water treatment provisions included in the Water Service (Amendment) Act 2012, which govern the operation and maintenance of such systems, as well as the associated risk-based inspection regime.
As for risks to water bodies from animal waste, the primary agricultural measure to support water quality is the Nitrates Regulations, the European Union (Good Agricultural Practice for Protection of Waters) Regulations 2017, and the associated Nitrates Action Programme, prepared pursuant to the EU Nitrates Directive, Council Directive 91/676/EEC concerning the protection of waters against pollution caused by nitrates from agricultural sources. Ireland’s fourth Nitrates Action Programme 2018 to 2021 focuses, inter alia, on intercepting and breaking nutrient transport pathways and preventing sediment and nutrient losses to waters.