The loss of high-status waters has been identified as an important issue within Irelandand across Europe. The protection and restoration of these waters is one of the underpinning principles of the Water Framework Directive (WFD). This is recognised, with appropriate commitments, within Irelands second cycle River Basin Management Plan (RBMP) which was prepared in accordance with the requirements of Article 13 of the WFD. The need to address the loss of high-status waters was identified as a significant water management issue during the RBMPs public consultations.
The River Basin Management Plan for Ireland 2018-2021 was published in April 2018 and sets out the measures to be implemented by 2021 to protect and improve the status of water bodies in the Irish River Basin District. This covers an area of 70 273 km2 and includes 140 designated bathing waters, 64 shellfish growing waters, 42 nutrient sensitive areas, and 358 Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and 154 Special Protection Areas (SPAs) within the Natura 2000 network.
The overall objective of LIFE-IP Waters of Life is to support the implementation of measures to protect and enhance high-status waters and thus to support the work of the Blue Dot Catchments Programme as outlined in the RBMP for Ireland 2018-2021. The Waters of LIFE IP will act as a catchment-scale demonstration project to test and validate the effectiveness of implementing locally-tailored best practice measures across a range of landscape and land-use management activities typically associated with the catchments of high-status waters.
The project will give particular emphasis to the following:
In addition delivering Irelands obligations under the Water Framework Directive, the Waters of LIFE Project creates synergies with the objectives of the Birds and Habitats Directives, the Flood Directive with regard to water retention, and the Nitrates Directive with regard to diffuse pollution and water quality. The project is also relevant to the Industrial Emissions Directive, the Sewage Sludge Directive, and the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive.
In addition to the IP budget itself, the project will facilitate the coordinated use of 93 031 581 of complementary national and European funds through water and agri-environment projects and programmes.
Additional results will include: 1. Improved water conditions, with improved water quality of 138 Mm3 water/year, equal to 70% change of water by volume discharging annually from demonstration catchments, and improved resilience to climate change, including resilience to flooding by improved conditions for 210 inhabitants and on 780 ha of blanket bog; 2. More sustainable land use, agriculture and forestry, due to an increase in the area under sustainable forest management of 1 265 ha and anarea of agricultural land under sustainable management of 25 000 ha; 3. Improvements in habitats and for, species and biodiversity, with an area of 2 500 ha grassland and 780 ha blanket bog progressing towards habitat improvement or restoration, or in a favourable conservation status, and a reduction in invasive alien species equivalent to a 10% change in populations compared to before the project; 4. Improved economic performance in project areas, with 33.5 FTE jobs created where no water catchment management jobs existed before; 5. At least four direct replications of the projects approach in river basin catchments in Ireland alone, although others will be identified in Ireland and other countries and regions; 6. Communication, dissemination, awareness rising activities reaching 14 000 individuals and entities, including at least 70% of study area residents, resulting in increased stakeholder involvement in River Basin Action Plans and resulting changes in behaviour, including a 70% change within the agricultural sector.