What do your local rivers, lakes, groundwater, estuaries and coastal waters mean to you?
This question was asked of local communities by Community Water Officers during public consultation on the draft River Basin Management Plan for Ireland 2018 – 2021.
Over 120 public meetings were held across all 31 Local Authority areas between 20th April and August 5th 2017. Municipal Districts were chosen as catchment areas for these meetings as they are recognised Local Authority administrative areas and provide a good geographic spread.
The purpose of these public meetings was primarily to raise awareness about the Water Framework Directive and encourage submissions from the public and interest groups on the draft River Basin Management Plan, to enhance public participation in policy making. The meetings also opened discussions on local water interests and issues.
The main purpose of public participation is to improve decision-making, by:
- ensuring that decisions are soundly based on shared knowledge, experiences and scientific evidence,
- that decisions are influenced by the views and experience of those affected by them,
- that innovative and creative options are considered and new arrangements are workable and acceptable to the public.
(Public Participation in relation to the WFD, Guidance Document no. 8, EC)
The draft River Basin Management Plan provided an opportunity for members of the public, local communities, groups and organisations to make submissions on water quality management issues relating to their local rivers, lakes, groundwater, estuaries and coastal waters.
These public meetings also provided an opportunity to introduce the new online publicly available Water Framework Directive resource catchments.ie by displaying local maps with EPA data on water quality, complimented by stories of successful water projects from around the country.
With the Local Authority Waters and Communities Office public consultation process on the draft River Basin Management Plan concluded, the process of analysing and organising the information gathered has begun. A large volume of submissions were received covering a wide range of issues. This information will be presented to the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government to inform the final River Basin Management Plan Follow up meetings are planned for late September/October to provide feedback at county level on the issues raised, and to highlight results from the catchment characterisation workshops led by the EPA in collaboration with Local Authorities, public bodies and invited stakeholders with specific catchment based knowledge.
The success of the River Basin Management Plan can only be achieved through an integrated Catchment Management approach where all stakeholders including local communities work together to achieves its goals. The River Basin Management Plan for Ireland 2018 – 2021 and its Programme of Measures will provide a basis for this collaboration over the next four years. Details of these meetings and the draft River Basin Management Plan public consultation report will be made available on www.watersandcommunities.ie Alan Walsh, Local Authority Waters and Community Office