Approximately 50% of all water bodies in Ireland require improvement in terms of water quality and this could have a major impact on Ireland’s nitrogen derogation, according to the EPA’s Donal Daly.

Speaking at Teagasc’s Agri-Environment Conference in Tullamore recently, Daly said that this could reflect negatively on Ireland’s clean green image.

“Approximately 50% of our waterbodies will be at risk, something has to be done about it to bring it back to not at risk. Based on data to 2013, 47% of river water bodies will require improvement.

If water quality objectives are not being met our nitrates derogation will be under threat and our green credentials will also be under threat.

Daly added that poor water quality has the potential to be the main limiting factor in Irish Agriculture in the coming years.

“Unsatisfactory water quality has the potential to be the new quota, some people previously said land, but water is going to be a bigger issue.”

According to the representative from the EPA, farming and agriculture is the main sources of this pollution and it accounts for over 50% of total water pollution causes.

53% of water pollution occurs as a result of agriculture while a further 33% occurs as a result of waste water treatment plants.

Furthermore, Daly added that achieving the targets of Food Wise 2025 will be difficult without impacting negatively on water quality.

“One of the main sources of pollution is agriculture and achieving good quality water will be difficult giving the targets of Food Wise 2025.

“Increased applications of nutrients in certain areas will create a challenge for water and water quality.”

However, despite this risk to water quality, Daly added that a top-down approach to solving this problem will not work.

“We are not going to achieve the outcomes by a top-down approach, there has to a local input.

The agri-indsutry has an important role as they can provided leadership. If it looks for good quality water it will say it to the farmers.

Furthermore, he added, that the training provided to advisors needs to be improved and they must have an equal environmental and production focus.

“There needs to be improved training for agricultural scientists and young farmers in colleges. Advisors should be as focused on the environment as production.”