Date released: Jun 08 2016, 9:30 AM
Developed in collaboration with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and the new Local Authority Waters and Communities Office, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has today launched a new website called catchments.ie. Key features of the site include maps and community-based stories making it easier for people to get information about water quality in Ireland and to get involved in protecting their local catchment.
Speaking at the launch of the website at the EPA’s annual water conference in Galway today, Dr Matt Crowe, Director of the EPA’s Office of Evidence and Assessment said,
“Clean, healthy and well-protected waters are a very important part of the fabric of Irish life. They support recreation and tourism, are the source of clean and wholesome drinking water for many of our citizens and add to the reputation of Ireland as a country with a green, clean and well protected environment. Water is all around us and this new dedicated website will make it easier for people to get information about the quality of their local river, lake, estuary or the hidden waters below ground. Catchments.ie will also provide information about what people can do to help protect their local water catchment.”
Welcoming the launch of catchments.ie, Simon Coveney, Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government said:
“The protection and restoration of our waters can only be fully achieved when all sectors of society commit to that goal. As Minister with responsibility for ensuring that Ireland meets the targets set out in the Water Framework Directive I want to see a real bottom-up engagement on the value of our natural waters. This new website brings together a range of actors, information and communities and will be an invaluable resource to support the integrated approach to catchment management and water environment improvements that this Government is committed to.”
Explaining the name of catchments.ie, Paddy Morris, of the EPA’s Catchment Science and Management Unit, said,
“We all live in catchments, whether it is the catchment area for a school or hospital, or a catchment area for a local stream, river, lake or coastal water. For water, a catchment is simply defined as an area of land contributing to a river, lake or other waterbody. Living in a catchment that has healthy water can help a community have a better quality of life – the water can help make sure local people have high quality drinking water, support livelihoods like agriculture, recreational angling or water sports, and also support local ecosystems, so plants, animals, fish and insects that depend on having healthy water can thrive and flourish. Managing our water catchments well can help create happy and prosperous communities. Rather than being in conflict with growth, a clean and healthy water environment is the foundation for a successful society supported by a resilient economy.”
Matt Shortt, from the Local Authority Waters and Communities Office, highlighted how the website will make it easier for people to get information about water and to get involved in helping protect their local waters:
“Catchments.ie will provide people with easy access to a huge range of information connected to our water environment, and will be a major resource for local communities, local authority staff and our new community water officers. It will also provide people with case studies and stories of good practice that we can all learn from when working out what to do to protect our local water catchments.”
Catchments.ie is designed to be accessible on your smart phone as well as on other devices.
Photographs of the launch are available from the EPA Media Relations Office.
Notes to Editors:
Catchments.ie allows easier public access to water-related environmental data that has been gathered by the EPA and other bodies, with maps pages and nearly 5000 dynamically generated pages of data that will be updated regularly, including long term trends for many waterbodies. The resource is the culmination of extensive collaboration between the EPA, local authorities and other organisations in compiling key datasets.
Integrated Catchment Management is an evidence-based and community-led approach that aims to involve people and groups from across society in managing their local water bodies and catchments. The website will provide people with the information they need to establish and run community-based water projects.
About the Local Authority Waters and Communities Office
The Local Authority Waters and Communities Office has been established to deliver two key objectives in connection with the implementation of the Water Framework Directive in Ireland (i) to coordinate the activities of all 31 local authorities in that area and (ii) to consult and engage with communities and stakeholders at local, regional and national levels. The office is managed jointly by Kilkenny and Tipperary County Councils to deliver a shared service to all local authorities. The staff compliment of the office will include 3 regional coordinators, 3 support officers based in Clonmel and 12 community water officers operating from centres located around the entire country.
About the Water Framework Directive and River Basin Management Plans
The Water Framework Directive was agreed by all EU member states in 2000, and its first cycle ran from 2009-2015. The Directive runs in 6 year cycles, so the 2nd Cycle runs from 2016-2021. River Basin Management Plans are prepared for each cycle so that risk to water quality can be assessed, objectives can be set, and measures can be put in place to protect and improve water quality.
Under the Water Framework Directive, rivers, lakes, coastal and transitional waters are classified as either:
Groundwater is classified as either Good Status or Poor Status.
Water Quality in Ireland
Overall, water quality in Ireland is among the best in Europe. There is still though much to be done to bring Ireland into compliance with the requirements of the Water Framework Directive. The EPA’s most recent figures for water quality show that 47% of our rivers, 57% of our lakes, 55% of our transitional waters (estuaries) and 7% of our coastal waters require improvement to meet the Water Framework Directive good status requirements. Eutrophication, which is caused by nutrient pollution from both humans and animals, remains the most significant issue for surface waters in Ireland. The two most important suspected causes of pollution in rivers are agriculture and municipal sources, accounting for 53% and 34% of cases respectively. Pressures on water quality are very much dependent on local conditions within a water catchment and the EPA, through its work on characterisation of over 500 sub-catchments around the country, is building up a picture of these local pressures which will make it easier to target actions to protect and improve water quality in the right places. This sub-catchment level information is being made available through catchments.ie.
A key part of the Water Framework Directive requires all member states to engage with the people who live, work and play in a catchment. To do this, it is important to understand how local communities live in their catchments and use their water. Therefore, it is critical that local communities are involved in management and decision making related to protecting and, where necessary, improving their water resources. Catchments.ie will make it easier for people to get information about the quality of their local waters resources and about what they can do to help protect their local water catchment.