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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 covers the period 2018-2021 and was published by the Government on 17 April 2018.

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.

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. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chairs the group. 

Regional and local authority structures:

Five local authority regional committees, supported by the Local Authority Waters and Communities Office (LAWCO), will coordinate delivery of measures at regional and local level. Each regional committee will be chaired by a local authority chief executive. The EPA will provide committees with technical advice. Each committee will produce a Regional Integrated Catchment Management Programme, which will set out the areas prioritised for action at water body, sub-catchment or catchment level, as appropriate. The programmes will also outline the measures to be implemented in each relevant area and the bodies responsible for these measures.

Each committee will be supported by an operational committee, composed of membership from public and implementing bodies. The LAWCO will promote public and stakeholder involvement in implementing measures at regional and local level.

Local authorities are currently establishing Local Authority Water Support and Advisory Teams, which will conduct scientific assessments of water bodies and implement water quality improvement measures at local level. They will form part of LAWCO.

LAWCO works to increase public engagement. It also consults with stakeholders and communities, coordinating these activities across all 31 local authorities. Its work aims to ensure the public and stakeholders are engaged at regional and local level — to enable them to get involved with catchment-based approaches to improving water quality and the development and implementation of measures on the ground.

LAWCO also provides local authorities, community and voluntary groups with technical advice and assistance in relation to local, regional, national, EU and corporate funding related to water management. It will also manage the Community Water Development Fund, enabling funding for community water initiatives that support the aims of the RBMP 2018-2021.

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.