Water is taken from our rivers, lakes and groundwater in large volumes by the private sector, including water bottling companies and agri-food companies, and recreational businesses such as golf clubs.
This may impact on the abstraction of water - where water is taken from natural watercourses to help treat drinking water, for crop irrigation and to assist in controlling flooding.
Conservation groups argue that current laws from the 1940s are too lax, with most abstractions unmonitored and unregulated as commercial or industrial operations are not included.
This means that authorities have little understanding of how much of our water resources are being used, where it is being extracted from and for what purpose.
In November 2020, the European Commission warned the Irish State about a failure to comply with key EU water law due to a lack of legislation and appropriate controls for water abstraction.
A Bill to close this regulatory gap is currently before the Oireachtas but has been heavily criticised by the Sustainable Water Network as “light touch regulation” with abstraction thresholds set so high that most businesses will still not be obliged to monitor or register their activities.
HELP US INVESTIGATE
We want to examine the gaps in current rules for water abstraction and assess the proposed changes under the Water Abstractions Bill to see if they are fit for purpose.
We will also use Freedom of Information requests to gain an insight into how aware authorities are of ongoing abstractions across the country and where there are serious gaps in knowledge.
We will also examine the limited data available to determine which industries have the largest demand for water and how this may be impacting on the supply of water for local communities.
We will compare our regime to that in Northern Ireland where regulation and monitoring of abstractions are far more stringent, and examine the reasons why we are not following a similar model here.
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