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Water pollution

The national legislation concerning water pollution is the Local Government (Water Pollution) Acts, 1977 - 2007 and its' associated regulations. This enables a local authority to prevent and control pollution within their functional area, including requiring an offender to carry out specified measures within a specified timeframe to prevent any further pollution of waters and if necessary to take legal action.

Additional legislation concerning

Water framework directive

The water framework directive was transposed into Irish legislation by the European Communities (Water Policy) Regulations 2003 (S.I. 722 of 2003) and into Northern Ireland by the Water Environment (Water Framework Directive) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2003 (SR No. 544). The legislation provides for the protection of the quality status of all waters through the establishment of river basin districts where a set of environmental objectives must be met by defined timelines. Objectives are to be achieved through the implementation of existing EU Directives which are referred to as basic measures. If these are not sufficient, supplementary measures may be applied but must be technically feasible and cost effective.

The water framework directive is essentially about managing our waters in natural, geographical units called river basins. To make management practicable, neighbouring river basins have been grouped into river basin districts (RBD). If a basin district crosses a national border, it is called an international river basin district (IRBD), and both jurisdictions must cooperate in managing it.

The river basin projects were established by the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government to assist the local authorities to implement the directive, and is funded through the National Development Plan (NDP). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are the competent authority for coordination and and reporting to Europe on implementation in Ireland.

The island of Ireland has about 400 river basins, which have been grouped into eight districts:

  • Four RBDs wholly within Ireland
  • One wholly within Northern Ireland
  • Three cross-border IRBDs

95% of County Clare is within the Shannon International River Basin District (ShIRBD) and 5% within the Western River Basin District (WRBD).

Shannon International River Basin District (ShIRBD)

The Shannon International River Basin District the largest in Ireland at more than 18,000 km2 in area. It covers the natural drainage basin of the Shannon river itself, stretching from the source of the River Shannon in the Cuilcagh mountains in Counties Cavan and Fermanagh to the tip of the Dingle peninsula in north Kerry. It also includes coastal parts of Kerry and Clare which drain to the sea. It flows through 18 local authority areas and is also an international RBD as a small portion of County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland drains underground to the Shannon Pot. The Shannon International River Basin District (ShIRBD) project is led by Limerick County Council, while Roscommon and Clare County Councils are the two other lead authorities for the project. All 18 local authorities and the relevant state agencies actively participating in the project.

Large area of counties Limerick, Clare, North Tipperary, Offaly, Westmeath, Longford and Roscommon as well as significant portions of counties Kerry, Galway, Leitrim and Cavan are in the ShIRBD. Other counties that have smaller portions in the District include Sligo, South Tipperary, Mayo, Cork, Laois and Meath, while all of Limerick City is located within the district.

Western River Basin District (WRBD)

The western river basin district includes parts of Clare, Galway, Galway City, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo and extends over some 12,000 square kilometres, with over 5,600 lakes, 14,200 kilometres of rivers, 105 groundwater bodies and an extensive marine and estuarine area.

The first River Basin Management Plan for the Shannon IRBD is due for adoption in February 2010.

The complete timetable up to 2015 can be found on the Water Framework Directive website.

Content managed by: Roads, Environment and Water Services Department

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