Two Cork water catchments selected under major scheme to protect Ireland’s rivers

The aim of the scheme is to reverse the long-term trend of decline in Ireland’s “high status” waters
Two Cork water catchments selected under major scheme to protect Ireland’s rivers

Two of Cork’s water catchments have been selected for inclusion in the EU-funded Waters of LIFE project to protect Ireland’s most pristine river catchments including the River Awbeg (pictured). Picture: Olive Ryan

Two of Cork’s water catchments have been selected for inclusion in the EU-funded Waters of LIFE project to protect Ireland’s most pristine river catchments.

The river Shournagh, near Blarney and the Awbeg river, close to Kanturk, are among six rivers nationally to be included in this project, launched by Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan TD.

Managed by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, the strategic project involves 16 partners including government departments, State agencies, Local Authorities, and local development companies, with an overall budget of €20 million.

The aim of the scheme is to reverse the long-term trend of decline in Ireland’s “high status” waters. High-status rivers are those considered to be in pristine condition and rich in biodiversity and Ireland is one of a small number of EU member states that still has a number of high-status water bodies.

However, the number of remaining high-status sites has declined from 31.5% (1987-1990) to 19.9% (2017-2020), representing an almost 37% decline in number according to EPA data.

The six catchments included in this scheme are:

  • The Shournagh, Co Cork near Tower and Blarney 
  • The Awbeg, Co. Cork, near Kanturk 
  • The Island River in the Galway/Roscommon area near Ballymoe 
  • Rivers in the catchment of Lough Graney, Co. Clare 
  • The Avonmore, Co. Wicklow 
  • The Sheen, Kerry, as a control river for the strategic project 

The total budget under this LIFE Integrated project is €20,369,805 of which €9,500,000 has been committed by the European Union.

Speaking at the project launch, Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan TD said that the ongoing loss of high-status waters is among the most concerning, protracted and persistent water quality trends in Ireland.

“The six high-status rivers selected for this scheme – and the communities, industries and local economy surrounding them – will benefit greatly from the implementation of locally-tailored solutions to be delivered through this scheme. No doubt many learnings will be found and can be applied to our future efforts to preserve and improve our high-status waters.

“With 16 partners involved, this project will be highly collaborative in nature and the shared expertise among these partners will bring great benefit to the scheme. I also look forward to working together with the communities and landowners in each of the selected regions to bring out the best in these rivers.”

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