Water Policy Advisory Committee Meetings – 2019 to 2021

The Water Policy Advisory Committee (WPAC), established pursuant to S.I. 350 of 2014, provides policy advice and assistance to the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government on the implementation of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and on broader water resource issues.

WPAC is also responsible for providing advice on and support for the making of River Basin Management Plans, including the programmes of measures as part of those Plans.

WPAC also invites other organisations to present to it on topics of relevance, and it has decided to publish regular bulletins to provide an overview of issues under consideration.

However, as much of the Committee’s discussions are confidential as part of the wider deliberative process, these bulletins are general in nature.

WPAC Membership
Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (Chair) (D/HPLG)
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Office of Public Works (OPW)
Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI)
Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU)
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (D/AFM)
Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (D/CHG)
Department of Health (D/H)
County and City Management Association (CCMA)
Health Service Executive (HSE)
Irish Water (IW)
Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI)

Note: nothing substantive that’s not available / mentioned via multiple other sources, aside from:

D/HPLG provided information on the new oversight group for the ASSAP.

Abstractions Bill – pre-legislative scrutiny stage on the 20th October 2020

Shannon catchment – fish passage Ardnacrusha / Parteen – Roadmap for the implementation of potential solutions was close to completion, and with the Steering Group by end of 2020

Programme of Measures Gap Analysis mentioned. Unclear if these gap analysis reports have been published by EPA. References main issues of Nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) and hydromorphology (drainage, sediment and barriers) so worth following up.

Fifth Nitrates Action Programme 2022-2025

The Programme sets out new measures that have been introduced since the Fourth Programme.

Ireland’s Nitrates Action Programme is given effect by the European Communities (Good Agricultural Practice for Protection of Waters) Regulations 2022 (S.I. No. 113 of 2022). The regulations contain specific measures to protect surface waters and groundwater from nutrient pollution arising from agricultural sources.

The Fifth Nitrates Action Programme was developed following an initial public consultation, which was held in late 2020, and a second consultation period that concluded in September 2021. A third consultation period focused on the draft Natura Impact Statement and draft Strategic Environmental Assessment for the Programme was concluded on January 2022. Approximately 700 submissions were received during the three consultation periods and these have informed the final Programme.

What’s new in the Programme?

There have been a number of measures strengthened and added to the Programme since the Fourth Nitrates Action Programme and include the following:

  • Register of Chemical Fertiliser Sales to be established by Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) for 2023
  • Improving Compliance and Enforcement –The EPA will develop and implement a National Agricultural Inspection Programme for local authorities. These inspections will be more targeted and risk-based with a stronger focus on compliance and follow-up enforcement. DAFM will increase derogation inspections from 5 to 10%
  • Slurry and Soil Water Storage and Management – dates of closed period extended
  • Livestock Excretion Rates – Three new excretion rate bands are being introduced which will be calculated as 80kg/ha, 92 kg/ha and 106 kg/ha. This means that to remain below the maximum permitted organic nitrogen loads of 250 kg/ha in derogation, there will have to be less cows per ha
  • Chemical Fertiliser Control – This will start with 10% reduction of chemical nitrogen applied nationally and may be increased to a 15% reduction nationally after the midterm interim review of the programme
  • Sewage/Industrial Sludges – There will be a review of management and oversight
  • P Build-Up – This is available to farmers above 130kg/ha
  • Green Cover on Tillage Ground – To reduce any potential losses of nutrients post-harvest cultativation/ crop sewing will happen within tighter timelines. Further measures will be introduced in the coming months to address concerns on loss of feeding areas for birds
  • Crude Protein in Concentrate Feeds – a maximum crude protein content of 15% is allowed in concentrate feedstuff fed to grazing livestock between 15 April and 30 September
  • Organic Matter Determination – from 2022, all soils greater than 20% Organic Matter are required to be soil tested for Organic Matter
  • Soil Tests are compulsory for holding above 170kg/ha by 2022, and by 2023 for holdings above 130kg/ha and for sown arable land
  • Grazing Land Management – for nutrient planning the stocking rate for commonage is 50kg/ha and * Review of technical tables –Some tables have been updated with the most recent scientific evidence and some tables will be updated in time for the interim review when the scientific evidence is available
  • Phased approach for Low Emission Slurry Spreading (2023-2025) for farms above 100kg/ha and must also be used for the application of pig slurry
  • Interim Review of the Programme within 2 years.

An Overview of Ireland’s Fifth Nitrates Action Programme

Ireland’s Fifth Nitrates Action Programme – Natura Impact Statement

Ireland’s Fifth Nitrates Action Programme – SEA Statement

Ireland’s Fifth Nitrates Action Programme – Determination on Appropriate Assessment

The National Technical Implementation Group (NTIG)

Previous FOI on this Group to EPA was refused 30/11//21 on basis that EPA intended to publish records within six weeks

Publication is at https://www.catchments.ie/download/wfd-national-technical-implementation-group/

Linked in Catchements newsletter at https://www.catchments.ie/catchments-newsletter-sharing-science-and-stories-about-water-in-ireland/

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The National Co-ordination and Management Committee (NCMC)

This committee will ensure RBMP measures are managed and will strengthen partnerships for implementing the plan.

The NCMC will provide the links between science, policy, and programme delivery.

It will agree and oversee the overall work programmes and report to WPAC on progress, potential barriers to implementation and future policy needs.

It will also oversee preparation of future RBMPs and programmes of measures on behalf of WPAC

April 2017: A commitment to establish the National Co-ordination and Management Committee (NCMC) has been made in the draft RBMP. The NCMC, comprising of representatives of D/HPCLG, local authorities and the EPA in order to oversee implementation of the RBMP, met for the first time on 4 April 2017. The NCMC will have a particular focus on translating the actions/measures in the RBMP into concrete work programmes, with clear targets and timelines.

AIE: membership, minutes, agendas for 2021-22

Note: nothing on this group online

The Water Policy Advisory Committee (WPAC)

The Water Policy Advisory Committee (WPAC), established pursuant to S.I. 350 of 2014, provides policy advice and assistance to the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government on the implementation of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and on broader water resource issues.

WPAC is also responsible for providing advice on and support for the making of River Basin Management Plans, including the programme of measures as part of those Plans. 

WPAC regularly invites other organisations to present to it on topics of relevance, and it has decided to publish regular bulletins to provide an overview of issues under consideration.  [check for list of published bulletins 2021-2022]

“However, as much of the Committee’s discussions are confidential as part of the wider deliberative process, these bulletins are general in nature.” [AIE minutes of meetings 2021-22]

WPAC Membership

Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Chair) (D/HPCLG)

Environmental Protection Agency

Office of Public Works

Geological Survey of Ireland  

Commission for Energy Regulation

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine       

Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs

Department of Health

County and City Management Association

Health Service Executive

Irish Water

Inland Fisheries Ireland

AIE: members, agenda/minutes 2021-22

Note: nothing online on this committee, aside from some 2016-2017 posts that confirms it exists, does not list members, remit or governance. Mentioned in Draft River Basin Management Plan for Ireland (2022 – 2027) so presumably still in existance

Background Note from Water Advisory Unit (part of Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage) on Domestic Septic Tanks

On 29 October 2009, the European Court of Justice ruled against Ireland in relation to the treatment of domestic waste waters from septic tanks and other on-site wastewater treatment systems. 

The Court ruled that, with the exception of bye-laws in County Cavan, Irish legislation did not transpose Articles 4 and 8 of Directive 75/442/EEC (the Waste Directive) insofar as domestic waste waters from such on-site treatment systems are concerned.

The Court ruled that the existing legislation only partially provided the protections required by the Directive in relation to on-site waste-water treatment systems. Specifically, the Court highlighted the absence of an appropriate system of inspection for such systems.

A response setting out Ireland’s proposed legislative response issued to the Commission in December 2009.  Following the ruling the Department worked closely with the Environmental Protection Agency and with officials from a number of local authorities on developing proposals to address the ruling and provide for a system of inspection.

The issues raised from the 2009 European Court of Justice ruling have since been addressed by various pieces of legislation. These include the Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012, Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems Regulations (e.g. SI 220 of 2012 and SI 223 of 2012), and the introduction of the National Inspection Plan for Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems to support these regulations.  Regulations can be found on the Irish Statute book website at https://www.irishstatutebook.ie/

Current details regarding Domestic waste water treatment systems (septic tanks) can be found on the Rural Water section of the Department’s website at: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/6cc1e-domestic-waste-water-treatment-systems-septic-tanks/

In terms of Ireland’s obligations, the EU Water Framework Directive, which was adopted in October 2000, is now the relevant piece of environmental legislation requiring implementation to protect our waters and it lays down very detailed requirements for the management and improvement of water quality.

These include the requirement that member states must put a programme of measures in place to protect and, where necessary, restore to at least good status all bodies of surface water and groundwater within prescribed timeframes.

To implement this requirement, member states are required to prepare “River Basin Management Plans” every 6 years. These plans must, amongst other requirements, set out the environmental improvements that will be delivered during the river basin planning cycle in question and describe the programme of measures that will be implemented to meet the objectives set out in the plan.

Details relating to the Water Framework Directive are available on the Water Advisory Units section on the Department’s website at https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/f7c76-water-framework-directive/

Details of the most recent plan can be found at:https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/429a79-river-basin-management-plan-2018-2021/ and details of public consultation on the draft River Basin Management Plan for Ireland 2022-2027 can be found at the following link: www.gov.ie/draftRBMP

Ecosystem Accounting

The SEEA Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA EA) constitutes an integrated and comprehensive statistical framework for organizing data about habitats and landscapes, measuring the ecosystem services, tracking changes in ecosystem assets, and linking this information to economic and other human activity.

The United Nations Statistical Commission adopted the SEEA Ecosystem Accounting at its 52nd session in March 2021. The report of the Commission can be found here.

This adoption follows a comprehensive and inclusive process of detailed testing, consultation and revision. Today, ecosystem accounts have already been used to inform policy development in more than 34 countries.

https://seea.un.org/ecosystem-accounting

Data 4 Nature Report

Natural Capital Ireland orgainsed and hosted the Data hub for the Data 4 Nature workshop on May 11th, 2021. 100+ attendees who joined in taking a closer look at the state–of–play for nature–related data in Ireland.

As a final output, a report was produced for the Minister for State with Responsibility for Communications Ossian Smyth that provides recommendations for improving the availability, accuracy, usability, accessibility, reproducibility and discoverability of data to support nature research and conservation.  

The workshop event considered ways data could be better used to support the natural capital approach and biodiversity monitoring, while asking how we might enhance data infrastructure for environmental research in general, particularly with the Open Data Directive coming into law.

The report has recommendations for improving availability, accuracy, usability, accessibility, reproducibility & discoverability of nature data in Ireland.

Challenges raised include data gaps, incomplete metadata, varying units and timeframes.

5 key recommendations :

·Develop one central dashboard for Irish nature data

·Establish robust data gathering protocols

·Harmonise formats

·Publicise and promote

·Ensure open & equal access for all 

Read the final report here.