EPA finds water quality is getting worse with no action plan in sight

10 Dec 2019

Image: © Deyan Georgiev/Stock.adobe.com

The EPA has released a report documenting declining water quality in Ireland, warning that it will likely decline further in the future.

Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has said the findings of a new report analysing Irish lakes and rivers are a “worrying development for our water quality”. Since the last assessment, it said, water quality has deteriorated considerably, with only 53pc of surface waters in Ireland now having satisfactory water quality.

This marks a net decline of 5.5pc – totalling 128 water bodies – with a continuing decline in terms of Ireland’s most pristine sites. There are now just 20 pristine river sites across the country, down from more than 500 sites in the late 1980s.

Future Human

Furthermore, the number of seriously polluted river sites – dubbed the ‘worst of the worst’ – has risen from six to nine after many years of improvement. Fish kills have also jumped considerably from a historic low of 17 in 2017 to 40 in 2018. The EPA said this was likely attributed to the hot summer and low flow conditions last year.

Infographic showing data from water quality report.

Click on the image for a larger version. Image: EPA

Good work undone

“We now have an increase in the number of the most polluted river sites, and the number of rivers in poor ecological health is also increasing,” said EPA director Matt Crowe.

“Positive trends reported previously by the EPA have reversed. Not only are we failing to improve overall water quality, we are also failing to prevent further deterioration of our rivers.”

The EPA’s water programme manager, Mary Gurrie, said that the overall increase in nutrient concentrations is a “worrying development for our water quality”.

“These excess nutrients come from human activities, predominantly our farms and waste water,” she added. “We need to address the sources and the pathways by which these nutrients make their way into our rivers and lakes.”

In other EPA news, the agency recently signed a deal with the Waterford Institute of Technology for the latter to provide radioactive monitoring data in the event of a nuclear emergency.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic