Thursday, 16 November 2023
Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government
164. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government the plans of his Department to protect rivers and fresh water lakes from agricultural runoff and to prevent algae blooms and other environmental damage from arising; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50415/23]
Algal blooms (phytoplankton over-growth) in lakes are a natural phenomenon that can be exacerbated by excess nutrients and warm settled weather. Algal blooms are not specifically monitored for in the national water-monitoring programme, as, by their nature, they can be relatively short-lived events.
My Department is currently preparing Ireland’s third-cycle River Basin Management Plan, which will be a strategic government plan that will outline the national policies and high-level goals that will protect and restore our natural waters. The aim of the next plan is the identification and implementation of the “right measure in the right place”, with targeted measures to both restore and protect all waterbodies, which will be supported by the integrated catchment approach through the development of catchment management plans by the Local Authorities Waters Programme (LAWPRO). This new revised and strengthened River Basin Management Plan will advance Ireland’s commitment to the implementation of the Water Framework Directive.
For the third-cycle RBMP measures to improve restoration and protection measures to address the main pressures on natural waters during the next cycle and beyond include:
- A strengthened Good Agricultural Practices Regulations and the national Nitrates Action Programme. This includes enhanced enforcement by local authorities (increasing to approximately 16,000 inspections over the cycle).
- New agri-environmental schemes under the CAP Strategic Plan (2023-2027) will invest €2.9billion in environmental protection measures administered by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. These schemes have been designed to contribute to water policy environmental objectives, as far as practically possible. In addition, a Water European Innovation Partnership (EIP) project has been specifically designed to target water protection measures based on risk (€50million) on 15,000 farms.
- Continued investment in wastewater infrastructure with Uisce Éireann investing over €2.3billion over the period 2020-2024. This includes 108 wastewater treatment plants and 77 collection networks at an estimated cost of €1.5billion and 92 national programmes at an estimated cost of €780million.
- In terms of protecting our water resources, primary responsibility for the monitoring, management, protection and improvement of water quality is assigned to local authorities under the Local Government (Water Pollution) Acts and related legislation. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), through its Office of Environmental Enforcement, exercises general supervision in relation to the performance of these functions by local authorities.