An effective, catchment-based water governance system will be key to a successful River Basin Management Plan and ultimately key for the successful protection and restoration of our water environment.
One of the key weaknesses of Ireland’s first cycle of River Basin Management Planning was no single body having ultimate responsibility for implementation of the plan, and this has remained the case throughout the second cycle.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has identified policy coherence and well-designed regulatory frameworks as being key to effective water governance. SWAN argues that there has been far too little progress towards policy coherence and consistency in Ireland. For example, national agriculture policy to increase productivity and intensity is diverging further from the ecological goals of the WFD and plans to improve water quality.
A well-designed regulatory framework is yet to be presented, despite a commitment by the Department of Housing to introduce consolidated primary legislation to address the unwieldy and fragmented current legislative framework for water management and protection.
Effective public participation is also critical to successful river basin planning. This must include support for the establishment and operation of catchment and community-based groups, with staff, who are facilitated in becoming actively involved in decisions around the management of their local river, lake or bay. The recently implemented modest support via the Community Water Fund must be significantly increased. There is a commitment in the 2021-2027 draft River Basin Management Plan (RBMP) to publish 46 draft Catchment Plans but public involvement in what these finally look like will be extremely important.
SWAN submission to Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (DHPCLG), October 2016: ‘Public Engagement in Water Framework Directive Implementation: A Review of Developments as of September 2016, with Recommendations’