Authors: Alec Rolston, Eleanor Jennings and Suzanne Linnane
Summary: The overarching objective of the Towards Integrated Water Management (TIMe) Project was to connect science, policy, managers and local communities for the integrated management of Ireland"s water resources to assist in delivering improvements in environmental status, water quality and water management.
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An opportunity exists for coordination at the national level to carefully plan and manage local resources in collaboration and partnership with communities and to harness the goodwill that successful partnerships can produce. This research has examined international best practice in Integrated Water Resources Management, Integrated Catchment Management (ICM) and community engagement to identify key gaps that exist in waterfocussed community engagement initiatives in Ireland. A survey assessing current opinion in water management and community engagement undertaken in April 2015 identified that 81 % of respondents did not feel included in decisions about their water environment. However, an overwhelming 95 % of respondents stated that local communities should have a say in how the water environment is managed.
This research has identified the risks and qualitative costs and benefits associated with both filling and not filling the key gaps in current water management and community engagement processes. These results will inform waterrelated engagement practices in Ireland, particularly in regard to the second round of River Basin Management Planning for national implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive.
In addition, a process has been developed for protecting the drinking water sources of larger urban areas in larger catchments in order to identify priority areas where both management actions and community engagement initiatives can be implemented.
This research has identified clear avenues about ways governing bodies in Ireland can engage and empower local communities in water-related management actions, leading to a more integrated water-focussed society in Ireland.
These solutions include:
1. Developing a national water management and community engagement framework to provide guidance and consistency for engagement initiatives into the future.
2. Investigating priority locations for the establishment of community-managed hubs as focal points for community access to ICM information and resources.
3. Developing strategic initiatives to encourage local businesses to support local water management actions.
4. Developing national ICM-focussed primary and secondary school educational initiatives.
5. Developing and providing support to ICM-centred citizen science initiatives.
6. Increasing the number and frequency of local ICM focussed initiatives that communities can become involved with.
7. Undertaking engagement initiatives to raise awareness of local water management issues and how local communities can be involved in mitigation and support strategies.
8. Developing a framework for the appropriate monitoring and evaluation of engagement initiatives.
9. Initiating a one-stop website which provides guidance and advice on ICM.