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Dublin: 21 °C Sunday 21 April, 2019

Water quality in Irish rivers and lakes is more often getting worse, not better

The results are from a new report by the EPA.

People enjoying the hot weather at Glendalough in Co Wicklow.
People enjoying the hot weather at Glendalough in Co Wicklow.
Image: Niall Carson/PA Images

IRELAND’S BODIES OF waters are getting worse and just 30 are now classified as “pristine”, according to a new report. 

The report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) looked at the cleanliness of Ireland’s beaches, rivers, lakes, estuaries and canals up 2017.

Looking at rivers, the report found that 197 river water bodies have improved in quality since a 2015 report while 269 have deteriorated.

This means that 72 more rivers have got worse than improved and the EPA has says this represents an overall 3% decline in water quality. 

In a demonstration of how river quality has deteriorated over a number of decades, the EPA says that 30 sites are determined to be of “pristine” quality compared to over 500 in the 1980s.

This figure of 30 does mark some improvement however, with the previous report recording 23 pristine quality sites. 

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The report says that most pollution is caused by too much nitrogen and phosphorus entering waters with these excess nutrients coming from human activities, mostly farms and urban areas.

On the positive side, progress has been made over the past ten years in dealing with seriously polluted waters.

The report found that just two sites were described as being of bad quality, down from six in the 2015 report and from 91 in a report from 1990. 

The two sites identified as bad were Aughboy in Wexford and Ahavarraga Stream in Limerick

The number of fish kills in our waters has also seen a huge drop, down to just 14 reported cases. The worst years for fish kills, 1987 and 1989, saw more than 100 fish kills annually.

Matt Crowe of the EPA’s Office of Evidence and Assessment said that Ireland’s water quality is getting worse overall, describing the situation as “simply unacceptable”.

“Clean, healthy water is essential to our health and wellbeing. The signals in this report are not good and tell us that water quality is still getting worse in some areas despite improvements in others. This is simply unacceptable. We must do more to halt deterioration in water quality so that we protect this most precious public resource,” Crowe says.

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Rónán Duffy

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