Environment News

€20m Waters of LIFE Project to Protect Ireland’s River Catchments

Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan TD has launched the Waters of LIFE strategic project. Managed by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, the strategic project involves 16 partners including government departments, State agencies, Local Authorities, and local development companies, with an overall budget of €20 million.

The aim is to reverse the long-term trend of decline in Ireland’s “high status” waters. High status rivers are those considered to be in pristine condition and rich in biodiversity and Ireland is one of a small number of EU member states that still has a number of high status water bodies. However, the number of remaining high-status sites has declined from 31.5% (1987-1990) to 19.9% (2017-2020), representing an almost 37% decline in number according to EPA data.

The six catchments included in this scheme are:

• The Shournagh, Co Cork, near Tower and Blarney

• The Awbeg, Co. Cork, near Kanturk

• The Island River in the Galway/Roscommon area near Ballymoe

• Rivers in the catchment of Lough Graney, Co. Clare

• The Avonmore, Co. Wicklow

• The Sheen, Kerry, as a control river for the strategic project

The total budget under this LIFE Integrated project is €20,369,805 of which €9,500,000 has been committed by the European Union. The LIFE programme is the EU’s funding instrument for the environment and climate action. Since its creation in 1992, it has co-financed some 5000 projects across the EU, with a total contribution of approximately €6.5 billion for the protection of the environment and climate action. These programmes are typically run by government agencies such as the National Parks and Wildlife Service, local authorities, with involvement of community groups, third level institutions, and private companies. Further information on Ireland’s LIFE Projects can be found here .

Key objectives of the Waters of LIFE strategic project up to 2028 will be:

• Increase understanding of the causes of status change in these types of rivers, which can be sensitive to even minor land management changes within a catchment.

• Enhance public awareness of the ecology, ecosystems and natural capital of high-status waters and their catchments.

• Develop locally tailored solutions in consultation with local landowners and communities. This will include development of a results based agricultural payments scheme, which will be implemented in three of the six catchments.

• Make recommendations that will inform the development of future agri-environment and forestry policies and provide for the long-term sustainable management of high-status catchments.

The project will include a demonstration project to develop, test, and validate integrated catchment management measures to halt and reverse the declining number of high status water bodies in Ireland.

Speaking at the project launch, Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan TD said, “the ongoing loss of high status waters is among the most concerning, protracted and persistent water quality trends in Ireland. The six high status rivers selected for this scheme – and the communities, industries and local economy surrounding them – will benefit greatly from the implementation of locally-tailored solutions to be delivered through this scheme. No doubt many learnings will be found and can be applied to our future efforts to preserve and improve our high status waters.”

“With 16 partners involved, this project will be highly collaborative in nature and the shared expertise among these partners will bring great benefit to the scheme. I also look forward to working together with the communities and landowners in each of the selected regions to bring out the best in these rivers.”

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