EPA launches Phosphorus Regulations Report 2005

Date released: Mar 21 2006

  • Overall, water quality complies with the Phosphorus Regulations at 63.4 per cent of river monitoring stations (an increase of 3.4 per cent compliance since the mid-1990s).
  • Significant improvements in overall compliance are apparent in Dublin City, Kildare, Fingal, Westmeath, South Dublin and Meath.
  • However, a significant decline in compliance levels with the Regulations apparent in Donegal and Wicklow.
  • The number and percentage of river stations of highest biological water quality has declined.
  • 401 of the 496 lakes assessed complied with the targets set in the Regulations.  Those counties with a relatively large number of non-compliant lakes (more than 4) include Monaghan (31), Cavan (14), Clare (14), Leitrim (9), Cork (7), and Longford (6).  
  • Agricultural activities and sewage discharges are the main sources of nutrient enrichment.
    Surface water quality (lakes and rivers) improved slightly in recent years, according to the EPA’s national report on the implementation of the Phosphorus Regulations. 

Dara Lynott, Director, EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement, said, “I am pleased to report today, World Water Day, that there has been a slight improvement in the quality of water in our rivers and lakes.  However, a worrying trend is the decline in the number of river stations recording the highest biological water quality.  Efforts need to be stepped up if Ireland is to meet water quality targets set out in the Phosphorus Regulations and indeed the more stringent targets of the Water Framework Directive.” 

Mr Lynott continued, “Tackling pollution from agricultural sources remains the greatest challenge.  New powers under the Nitrates Regulations enhance the enforcement tools available to local authorities and we would strongly advise them to ensure that these Regulations are fully enforced. The success of the implementation of water pollution measures will be ultimately judged over the coming years by necessary improvements in water quality. The EPA is continuing its water monitoring programmes to assess whether these improvements take place.”

In the report the, EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement recognises progress made by a number of local authorities in the implementation of measures to tackle water pollution.  However, it encourages local authorities to act on the wide array of information already available to them on pollution blackspots and suspected causes to ensure compliance with the water quality standards.  Local authorities are advised to concentrate their enforcement efforts on the recommendations in the report and target catchments and point sources that are contributing to declines in water quality.

Dr. Matthew Crowe, Programme Manager, EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement said, “Ireland’s rivers and lakes are precious national resources that need to be fully protected and are important for a wide range of activities including tourism, leisure, water abstraction and wildlife. In many cases the causes of poor water quality are known and need to be targeted by co-ordinated actions including investment, advice, education and enforcement.”  

Some of the key recommendations in the report aimed at local authorities are the need to identify the causes of site specific decline in water pollution, to rectify problems as a matter of urgency, to prioritise the construction and upgrades of wastewater treatment plants, to improve co-operation between Planning, Environment and Water Services and to carry out catchment protection work to identify risks and improve any identified poor agricultural practices. 

Dr Crowe said,  “It is encouraging to see improvements in a number of counties.  The EPA welcomes the work being done by local authorities to tackle water pollution and the significant investments being made to upgrade and built new wastewater treatment plants.”

The report, which includes summary reports for all local authorities, is available at www.epa.ie/downloads/pubs/water/phosphorus/  or from the EPA’s Publications’ Office, McCumiskey House, Richview, Dublin 14 on 01-2680100.