Call for protection of freshwater resources

Sustainable Water Network highlights loss of pristine river stretches

River stretch: report says half of the pristine stretches in Ireland have been lost since 1987.

River stretch: report says half of the pristine stretches in Ireland have been lost since 1987.


A new integrated approach to water management is “urgently needed” if Ireland’s rivers, lakes, groundwaters and coasts are to be protected from decline, a coalition of environmental groups has claimed.

The Sustainable Water Network (Swan), which involves 25 environmental organisations, has just published a pack highlighting the “dramatic loss” of pristine river stretches – halved since 1987 – as well as intensification of agriculture, climate change, poorly integrated planning and low levels of public awareness.

“In the drive to establish Irish Water and improve water infrastructure, river basin management plans drawn up in 2010 have been shelved because of the current disjointed structures – involving more than 50 State agencies,” Swan said.

It also highlighted the closure of beaches in 2012 and 2013 due to the health risk of elevated E.coli levels, continued incidences of “boil water notices” due to Cryptosporidium outbreaks in water supplies and the ongoing human distress caused by flooding.

Sinéad O’Brien, co-ordinator of Swan, said Ireland’s natural resources provided drinking water for all citizens, but our rivers, lakes, coastal waters and groundwater were also “essential for healthy communities, healthy ecosystems and thriving businesses”.

Huge costs
She said protection of water sources and integrated water management “should be at the forefront of public policy and forward planning if we are to avoid huge costs to the State in the future” for not complying with the EU water framework directive.

Swan, whose website is, is calling for a “joined-up system” for water management; integration of water protection into agriculture, development and other policy areas; special protection for unspoiled rivers and lakes; and a national public awareness campaign.