Water Framework Directive

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What is the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD)?

The EU Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) requires all Member States to protect and improve water quality in all waters so that we achieve good ecological status by 2015 or, at the latest, by 2027.  It was given legal effect in Ireland by the European Communities (Water Policy) Regulations 2003 (S.I. No. 722 of 2003). It applies to rivers, lakes, groundwater, and transitional coastal waters. The Directive requires that management plans be prepared on a river basin basis and specifies a structured method for developing these plans.

What are River Basin Management Plans (RBMP’s)?

RBMPs are plans to protect and improve the water environment.  They are prepared and reviewed every six years. The first RBMPs covered the period 2010 to 2015. The second cycle plan is currently being developed.

Who is responsible for implementing RBMP’s?

Building on the successful elements and the shortcomings of the first RBMP cycle, the Government has introduced new structures for implementing the 2018-2021 RBMP.

New structures for implementing the 2018-2021 River Basin Management Plans

Water Policy Advisory Committee (WPAC):

The WPAC will provide high-level policy direction and monitor RBMP implementation. It will also advise the Minister on progress.

This committee meets four times a year and summarised minutes of the meetings are available below:

The National Co-ordination & Management Committee (NCMC):

This committee will ensure RBMP measures are managed and will strengthen partnerships for implementing the plan. The NCMC will provide the links between science, policy, and programme delivery. It will agree and oversee the overall work programmes and report to WPAC on progress, potential barriers to implementation and future policy needs. It will also oversee preparation of future RBMPs and programmes of measures on behalf of WPAC.

The National Technical Implementation Group (NTIG):

The NTIG will oversee technical implementation of the RBMP at a national level. It will also provide a forum to coordinate actions among relevant State actors and address any operational barriers to implementation. The NTIG will also be a forum for information exchange and promote consistent regional implementation.

Regional and local authority structures:

The Local Authority National RBMP Office, supported by 5 regional committees, will coordinate delivery of measures at regional and local level. The five regional committees will be chaired by a local authority chief executive. The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) will provide technical advice. Each committee will produce a Regional Integrated Catchment Management Programme for this RBMP period (2018-2021) and track the progress and effectiveness of implementing structures.  The Local Authority Waters and Communities Office (LAWCO) will be responsible for ensuring public and stakeholder engagement and implementation of measures at regional and local level.

Whilst national authorities such as the Department of Agriculture, Food and the MarineIrish Water, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the EPA will drive implementation of national measures, the regional structures will help national authorities to coordinate and target national measures.

Public consultation on the draft River Basin Management Plan (2018-2021)

On 28 February 2017, the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Simon Coveney, T.D., published the draft River Basin Management Plan (2018-2021). The draft plan, executive summary and summary programme of measures outline the measures to improve water quality in our rivers, lakes, coastal and transitional waters, to be performed by a range of organisations and sectors, over the next few years.

The Department and the Local Authority Water Communities Office have produced a leaflet explaining the draft River Basin Management Plan. The Department and the Environmental Protection Agency have also produced an infographic with some interesting facts about the plan.

We want your views on the draft plan so we can improve it. The plan will be finalised at the end of 2017. Send us your views at rbmp@housing.gov.ie by 5pm on 31 August 2017.

In addition to our six month public consultation, there will be several other activities to get public and interested parties’ views:

Local engagement: Water quality is both a local and a national issue. A lot of improvements to water quality in your local rivers, lakes or coastal waters can happen with local knowledge and actions such as community clean-ups of a river. The newly-established Local Authority Water Communities Office (LAWCO) is responsible for engaging and consulting on the draft RBMP at local level. It is currently holding public information meetings throughout the country about the plan. It is also gathering views - at public meetings, from emails, by phone or in person - on local or regional water quality issues

To find out about the public meetings, to give your views on local, regional or national water quality issues, or to find out about how you can get involved in protecting water quality, contact LAWCO on its website. The LAWCO officers are available to work with communities.

Online survey: The draft RBMP is long and very detailed. Some people and organisations interested in the draft plan might only want to comment on specific or local issues. An online survey about the draft plan that only takes three minutes to complete is now available on our consultations portal. Do get involved!

National conference: The Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government held a national conference on the draft RBMP on 15 May 2017 at Farmleigh, Phoenix Park, Dublin. Speakers and delegates discussed and debated particular parts of the plan and issues about water quality.

Significant Water Management Issues (SWMI)

One of the key milestones in designing the second cycle draft RBMP was the identification of the significant water management issues in Ireland (SWMI).  In June 2015, we published the Significant Water Management Issues in Ireland public consultation document. This provided an overview of the status of our waters and outlined the challenges ahead.

We asked for feedback to confirm that the appropriate issues and key challenges had been identified. We also asked for suggestions on how to resolve these issues between now and 2021.

All of the submissions received were considered by both the Water Policy Advisory Committee and the Programme of Measures Working Group. The department published a response document to this public consultation.

Picture of the homepage of www.catchments.ie website

www.catchments.ie supports the on-going work to protect and improve our natural water environment from a water quality perspective. It is a shared resource that has been developed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department and the Local Authority Waters and Communities Office (LAWCO). It allows for public access to information on rivers, lakes and coastal waters that has been gathered by the EPA and other bodies.

The website contains guidance, maps, data, resources, case studies and water related news from around Ireland. It demonstrates the joined-up governance approach now in place for the implementation of the Water Framework Directive in Ireland. You can also sign up for a quarterly Catchments Newsletter and for updates about relevant events in your county.

North-South Working Group on Water Quality (NSWGWQ)

A North-South Working Group on Water Quality (NSWGWQ), comprising officials from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland co-operates on a range of initiatives in relation to water quality.  There was a high degree of co-ordination between the relevant authorities in developing the first cycle RBMPs. Co-ordination of implementation of the second cycle plan will also be necessary.

The LAWCO will also liaise, collaborate and work with Northern Ireland authorities on cross-border water bodies and support cross-border forums. The NSWGWQ will continue to report progress at North-South Ministerial Council Environment sectorial format meetings.