EU warns Ireland of impact of expansion on water quality

Ireland has been advised by the European Commission to temper its agricultural expansion plans with measures to ensure water quality objectives continue to be met.

In a report on the implementation of Water Framework Directive the Commission said that Ireland’s agricultural production ambitions associated with Harvest 2020 could pose a risk to achievement of WFD objectives.

It said appropriate safeguard measures should be added into enhanced basic measures (e.g. mandatory soil testing; controls on sediment and pesticides) and supplemented by measures to protect and restore water in the rural development and forestry programmes 2012-2021.

Additionally, the Commission also said that where the 2nd River Basin Management Plans identify additional measures necessary for the agriculture sector, Ireland’s Rural Development Plans may need to be reviewed to include these.

Report on the implementation of EU water legislation across all member states highlighted while there was progress, there still remains much work still to do

Particular problems include excessive abstraction for irrigation around the Mediterranean and Black Sea, widespread nutrient pollution from agriculture, and changes to river flow as a result of poorly planned hydropower or flood protection, or measures to encourage navigation.

While significant investments are still required in many areas, an overview of the 2007-13 financing period shows that Member States have not exploited available EU funding to support water objectives, for instance to treat waste water or to reduce flood risks by restoring flood plains and wetlands.

The water quality concerns of the Food Harvest 2020 proposals comes on the back of criticism of the plan from An Taisce over what it says is its negative environmental consequences.

It has said the 2020 target of increasing milk production by 50% – following the expiration of milk quotas in 2015 – is of particular significance.

It cites EPA figures which projects an increase of 12% in agricultural emissions by 2020 as a result of Food Harvest 2020.

Things are set to get worse, not better, based on current policy and this presents a huge challenge, it said.

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