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// Decline in river water quality
WATER AUTHORITIES and fishery boards have been urged to identify "hot spots" of pollution in each county and tackle these as a way of getting the "best bang for taxpayers' scarce euro".
At a conference on water quality in Galway yesterday, Martin McGarrigle of the Environmental Protection Agency said the number of monitoring sites which reported high quality river water had been declining for more then two decades.
He said the number of "high status river sites" recorded between 1987 and 1990 was almost 1,400, but by the recording period 2004 to 2006, the number returning "high status" had declined to fewer than 600.
Mr McGarrigle said the decline was likely to be caused by degradation from either single "point sources" or from a range of diffuse sources.
Roughly half of polluted river sites were due to point sources - of which there could be as many as 15 sites in each county.
Diffuse sources were probably more difficulty to detect but he said there could be between 15 and 20 in some counties.
In both cases he said the authorities had "to find that small critical source area" which he described as a "hot spot". The action was necessary if the State was to avoid the EU taking action for breaches of the EU water framework directive.
The directive requires a programme of measures for improving water quality be brought into effect by 2012 at the latest. Failure to do so could see the State facing large fines imposed by the EU.
Eight river basin districts have been identified by the Department of Environment for the purpose of implementing the directive.
Three of these are shared with Northern Ireland ( Shannon, Neagh Bann and North Western), four are wholly within the State (Eastern, South Eastern, South Western and Western) and one is wholly within Northern Ireland (North Eastern).
Four out of 131 bathing places tested were classified as having "poor" water quality.
Two of these - Clifden Beach in Co Galway and Lilliput at Lough Ennel in Co Westmeath - are repeat offenders. Among the chief difficulties were coliform bacteria.
16 Jun 2011
The Irish Times