3,000 in line for grants to improve water
Homeowners will receive grants to upgrade septic tanks in areas where local rivers or lakes are polluted or at risk of failing quality standards.
Some 3,000 homeowners with an on-site wastewater treatment system will be paid to complete repairs or replace their tanks under plans to improve water quality. The Government plans to improve 726 rivers, lakes and other water bodies over the next three years.
The Government's River Basin Management Plan (2018-2021) is being lodged with the European Commission this week, two years late.
It says Irish Water's €1.7bn investment programme, coupled with advice for farmers on preventing pollution and improving quality, more monitoring and the grant scheme will lead to improvements.
Some 242 septic tank grants have been paid since 2014, totalling around €750,000. The plan is to fund 3,000 upgrades in areas identified as high risk.
There is particular concern that high quality waters, or the number of rivers or lakes in near pristine condition, is falling.
Between 2007 and 2009, some 13pc of all rivers had "high" status. It is now 10pc.
Overall, just 57pc of our rivers, 46pc of lakes, 79pc of coastal waters and 91pc of groundwaters comply with EU standards. 75pc of shellfish waters meet the required standard.
Agriculture run-off accounts for some 53pc of water quality issues, with other pressures including septic tanks, urban wastewater systems operated by Irish Water and forestry.
Water-intensive sectors, including agri-food, pharmaceuticals, tourism and hospitality, sustain around 400,000 jobs, Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said.
"Communities will benefit from improved wastewater treatment, stronger protection of drinking water sources and cleaner waters.
"Water quality will improve and be protected in 726 water bodies, with full recovery in water quality status expected in 152 water bodies," he added.
However, the Sustainable Water Network said despite the "best efforts" of civil servants and scientists, the plan "lacked ambition" and was "far short" of what was needed.
"It is an exercise in doing the best you can to stem pollution whilst imposing no significant obligations for change on any of the sectors responsible," a spokeswoman for the NGO said, adding the plan exposed the State to EU fines for not doing enough to improve quality.