Blueprint for Northern Ireland Waters – From Source to Sea
Northern Ireland’s freshwater resources are highly valuable for economic, social and environmental reasons yet; only 30% are of good quality status, according to the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. Improving our water to ‘good quality status’ is crucial because our freshwater resources are essential to our daily lives – such as the Lough Neagh which provides us with 40% of our drinking water, supports major industry and wildlife and is a rich part of our cultural heritage. As the largest lake in the UK and Ireland, it is by far the dominant water body in Northern Ireland.
Improving the quality of our water supply is not only important for ourselves and our environment, it is also important legally. European legislation states that all Member States must ensure that all rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters are of ‘good water quality’ status by 2015. Failure to comply could mean severe fines from the European Commission.
By 2015, the Department of the Environment aim to achieve target status in 59% of water bodies. However, they have not set aside enough funding to accomplish this. They have allocated approximately £1million per year to implement the Water Framework Directive, less than half of the estimated implementation costs. This in spite of the fact that a report published in 2009 estimated that the cost of implementing River Management Plans would be £12.2m while the benefits accrued would be approximately £25m.
In response, the Northern Ireland Freshwater Taskforce[i] (FWTF), a coalition of nine environmental and angling organisations working together to ensure that Northern Ireland preserves and improves our freshwater environment, has produced a ten point action plan entitled From Source to Sea.
This publication outlines how Northern Ireland can achieve sustainable water use and restore our freshwater environment. It pushes sustainable water use further up the policy agenda by encouraging Government and wider society to adopt a sustainable and integrated approach to water management.
From Source to Sea launched today by the Northern Ireland Assembly Environment Committee at a River Walk on the Six Mile Water River in Antrim represents a clear programme of action the Northern Ireland Executive must take in order to meet agreed European standards for water management by 2015 and is a call to government for: funding and action to meet our European requirements; protection of water bodies; healthy rivers and wetlands; improved water efficiency; polluters to pay, water-friendly farming, sustainable urban drainage, and wetland restoration.
FWTF spokesperson Dr Claire Cockerill, said:
“By adopting the ten point plan Northern Ireland can achieve sustainable water management that will benefit our water quality, flood abatement, climate change mitigation, landscape and wildlife and provide valuable recreational and aesthetic benefits to residents and visitors alike.”
The FWTF urge the Northern Ireland Executive to use this ten point plan to drive forward sustainable water management in order that Northern Ireland meets its European requirements and avoid environmental damage, infraction fines from Europe, increasing costs of water treatment and negative impacts on tourism revenue.