Irish Water has said that many rare species of plants, animals and insects have been making a comeback at Irish Water sites around the country as a result of the utility’s work in supporting biodiversity.

To celebrate World Environment Day on Saturday, June 5, Irish Water is launching its Biodiversity Action Plan which sets out a national programme of measures to protect and enhance Ireland’s biodiversity.

Irish Water says it is committed to playing its part in protecting and enhancing Ireland’s rich variety of flora and fauna at its 1,700 water and wastewater treatment sites nationwide.

Evidence of biodiversity

Species as diverse as the long-tailed tit, otter, pine marten and the bee orchid, have already been spotted in several Irish Water sites where sustainable management practices have been put in place, according to the utility.

Swans in a lake representing biodiversity

Irish Water ecologist, Dr. Brian Deegan said: “Irish Water recognises the need to increase and accelerate efforts to halt the decline of biodiversity and we are committed to ensuring that we build and manage our infrastructure responsibly so that our ecosystems are protected, and where possible enhanced.

“The theme of World Environment Day 2021 is ‘Ecosystem Restoration’. By working responsibly, we can all play our part to halt the decline of Ireland’s rich biodiversity.

“Irish Water delivers clean drinking water to more than 3.3 million people across the country every day and returns the treated wastewater safely to the environment,” he added.

“We have sites in almost every town and village in the country, spanning a wide range of natural habitats and it’s our responsibility to protect these healthy ecosystems that benefit us all.”

Director of the National Biodiversity Data Centre, Dr. Liam Lysaght, added: “Ireland’s rich biodiversity is probably our greatest natural resource, but it is under threat here as it is all over the world.”

buttercup as an example of biodiversity

“Fortunately, there is growing awareness of the need to protect and enhance our biodiversity and we all have a role to play as individuals and organisations in supporting natural ecosystems,” Dr. Lysaght added.

“The National Biodiversity Data Centre is pleased to partner with Irish Water through the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan to support measures to better conserve biodiversity on land managed by the public and semi-state sector.”

Biodiversity Action Plan

This Biodiversity Action Plan sets out Irish Water’s plans to help conserve, enhance and work with the natural environment, as well as the strategic aims and the actions which will be undertaken to achieve them.

According to Irish Water, the seven key objectives of the plan, which can be implemented immediately, include:

  • Measures at all Irish Water sites that will enhance and protect flora and fauna;
  • Raising awareness and provide educational supports in relation to biodiversity;
  • Ensure ‘no net loss’ of biodiversity when carrying out activities or delivering plans across its sites;
  • Implementing actions from the All Ireland Pollinator Plan across all Irish Water sites to support and increase pollinator population;
  • Promoting the use of nature-based solutions for water protection and wastewater treatment;
  • Managing invasive alien species on Irish Water sites;
  • Collaborating with key internal and external stakeholders and the wider community, in protecting and enhancing biodiversity.
biodiversity pheasant

Collaboration with local authorities

Irish Water is working in partnership with local authorities to support biodiversity across many of its sites including Integrated Constructed Wetlands in Dunhill, Co. Waterford and Clonaslee, Co Laois. A similar site has recently been completed in Lixnaw, Co Kerry.

Enhancement work at the 12ha Waterford Wastewater Treatment Plant includes woodland management and wildflower meadows adjacent to Lower River Suir Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

In Ballymore Eustace, the site of Ireland’s largest water treatment plant occupying 56ha, biodiversity enhancement measures have been in place for several years, according to Irish Water.

Habitats include wildflower meadows and native woodland, while 5.27ha of native woodland is being planted at Lough Guitane Water Treatment Plant in Co. Kerry.