Significant work to be done on water quality, MEP McGuinness says

The strong economic benefit of good water quality is underestimated in public debate around our water resource management, Mairead McGuinness Fine Gael MEP and Vice-President of the European Parliament has said.

And, she said Ireland must lead the way in scientific endeavour around sustainable intensification of agriculture through sound science and advisory services at farm level.

The MEP said it is regrettably that the EU will fail to deliver on the objectives of the Water Framework Directive to ensure that all water bodies achieve good quality status in 2015.

Speaking at a Teagasc Science into Policy conference in Portlaoise today (Friday), she said there is good news on water quality with improvements reported but there is still significant work to be done.

The MEP, a member of the Agriculture and Environment Committees and with responsibility for the STOA (Science and Technology Options Assessment) unit in the European Parliament, said: “Science is critical to good policy making and it is vital that we have access to up to date quality scientific advice and data.

“Good quality water status benefits domestic, agriculture and industrial users of water with very significant economic benefits, estimated to be in the region of €25billion annually for the EU if we could achieve good status for all our waterways.”

She praised the work of Teagasc in the Catchment Area programmes aimed at improving knowledge of the impact of agricultural practices on water quality.

All of the analysis shows that improvements in water quality benefit the economy and society, she said.

“The EU Commission has just released its review of the Water Framework and Floods Directive with 12 recommendations for Ireland to implement to enhance our water quality.
“One of the key recommendations is around our plans for expansion of agriculture output. Ireland is praised for having put in place quite good basic measures in the first River Basin Management Plans. However, there is concern that agricultural production ambitions associated with Harvest 2020 could pose a risk to achievement of Water Framework Directive objectives.

“To address this the Commission is seeking that appropriate safeguard measures be put in place, including for example, mandatory soil testing, controls on sediment and pesticides, supplemented by measures to protect and restore water in the rural development and forestry programmes 2012-2021.

“It’s also suggested that rural development programmes may need to be reviewed with additional measures necessary for the agriculture sector.

“The Commission also points to the need to provide greater certainty on the financing of measures including water charges, EU and national funds,” she said.