A new water indicators’ report for Ireland has recently been revealed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – Water Quality in 2016 – An Indicators Report.
A substantial number of our rivers, lakes and estuaries are not as healthy as they should be.
While the aquatic environment is complex, a number of key insights can be taken from the indicators presented in this report. Some of these insights are positive, such as the decline in nutrient pollution and reduction in serious pollution events that result in fish kills. Others are negative and indicate that nutrient pollution is still an issue in some areas, while the loss of our highest quality and pristine river sites indicates a substantial deterioration in the quality of these previously unimpacted sites.
We can see from the nutrient-based indicators that loadings of nutrients to the sea have substantially decreased over the past 25 years. However, we still have issues with water quality and a substantial number of our rivers, lakes and estuaries are not as healthy as they should be. High levels of phosphorus in the north-east of the country are impacting on lake water quality, while high nitrogen concentrations in the south and south-east are impacting on the quality of many of our estuaries. There has also been a serious and continuing deterioration in river water quality in the north-west of the country. Figures indicate that Ireland’s chemical groundwater quality is generally good. However, in terms of microbiological quality a high proportion of groundwater sites (42%) are contaminated with the bacterium E. coli, indicating the presence of faecal contamination.
The main findings of the Water Quality 2016 Indicators Report finds:
- A slight increase in pristine river sites – rising to 23 from the 21 sites reported in the last EPA Water Quality in Ireland Report;
- Continued eradication of serious pollution – five seriously polluted river water bodies in 2014–2016, compared to 91 water bodies in the late 1980s;
- An additional 1% of river water bodies (23 water bodies) falling under the ‘good status’ category, compared with the results in the last Water Quality in Ireland Report;
- The maintenance of a long-term downward trend in the number of fish kills;
- The presence of faecal contamination in over 40% of national groundwater monitoring sites. This result highlights the need for homeowners to check and, if necessary, treat their well water before consumption;
- The continuing presence of nutrient pollution in a quarter of the country’s rivers and lakes, as well as a third of our estuaries and coastal waters.