Written answers

Wednesday, 17 May 2023

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Water Quality

Photo of Claire KerraneClaire Kerrane (Roscommon-Galway, Sinn Fein)
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182. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will confirm whether his Department has sought a delay to water quality reports under the nitrates derogation to allow the effect of new measures on water quality to be appropriately reflected as part of conditionality attached to the derogation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23484/23]

Photo of Charlie McConalogueCharlie McConalogue (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (DHLGH) is the lead authority for the interim review of the 5thNitrates Action Programme and the associated Nitrates Regulations. However, my Department works closely with them in this regard.

During the negotiations of Ireland’s current Nitrates Derogation, and since the European Commission published its Implementing Decision granting Ireland's Nitrates Derogation covering the period 2022-2025, officials from my Department and officials from DHLGH have actively engaged on several occasions with the European Commission on nitrates and water quality issues. This proactive engagement is expected to continue. 

In light of the negative trends in Irish water quality in the run-up to Ireland’s application for our current Nitrates Derogation, the European Commission imposed additional conditionality on that derogation. 

The Commission’s Implementing Decision granting Ireland's derogation includes a requirement for Ireland to conduct a two-year review of water quality, this year.

In accordance with the Commission Decision, the review must compare water quality data for 2021 and 2022. Where this data shows that there are polluted waters, or waters at risk of pollution that are not showing signs of improvement, or where worsening trends have occurred over this period, the maximum stocking rate limit for derogation farms must be reduced from 250kg to 220kg livestock manure nitrogen per hectare from 2024 onwards. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently working to provide the water quality data that will be used in this review.

We are preparing a case to engage further with the European Commission with the objective of seeking flexibility from them on the two-year water quality review with a view to giving existing measures more time to demonstrate their impact. We will push for the best possible outcome for farmers in this process, however, there is no guarantee that there will be a change to the Commission's Implementing Decision as it stands.


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