Farmers need a license to take water from rivers and lakes


Users of HEAVY water will be required by law to apply for a license to extract supplies from rivers and lakes under new rules agreed by the Cabinet.

Industry, farmers, businesses and Irish Water must demonstrate that the amount of water they abstract does not damage a source or the natural habitat that depends on it.

They will also be subject to restrictions during periods of drought. The measures are necessary to protect the rivers and lakes, which are increasingly polluted by dry periods, and to ensure that drinking water is given priority.

They also have a duty to bring Ireland into line with EU law. The country faces prosecution for violating the Water Framework Directive for the past 22 years.

Details are included in the Water Environment (Abtractions and Associated Impoundments) Bill 2022, to be published. The Housing Department said the bill was approved by Cabinet in late July.

“The Minister intends to introduce the bill in the Oireachtas as soon as the new Dáil session takes place,” it said. The bill is the latest version of legislation promised by the last three governments.

Environmental groups criticized the last version – published in 2019 – for overestimating the amount of water that required approval.

It was suggested that only withdrawals in excess of 2,000 cubic meters or two million liters per day would need to be authorised, except for vulnerable water sources, in which case over 250,000 liters would apply.

Smaller amounts would need to be registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), but would not be subject to the full rigors of the licensing system. Since 2018, registration for withdrawals of more than 25,000 liters has been required to prepare the promised laws, but those regulations lack bite.

Despite criticism of the 2019 proposals, the current bill is believed to largely stick to the same thresholds.

The department previously rejected calls for a stricter rule, arguing it would be too onerous for water users and the EPA, which will administer the licensing system.

However, the minister has sought outside legal advice on the likelihood that the proposed scheme will meet EU requirements.

Research a few years ago showed that 6 percent of water sources were significantly affected by large-scale abstraction, but this is likely to increase.

Irish Water yesterday added Clonakilty to its list of areas now requiring night time water restrictions between 11pm and 7am.

Tipperary has also been added to its list of areas where drinking water supplies are at risk due to falling water levels as the current warm dry spell intensifies.

Eleven plans, including those supplying Clonmel, Carrick-on-Suir and Fethard, are under particular pressure.

Customers in many parts of Wexford have also been urged again to save water as levels there continue to drop.

Demand in the county rose 7.5 per cent last week, according to Irish Water, and with a heatwave forecast for the remainder of this week, the situation is expected to get more difficult.

Special measures have now been put in place in 15 areas, mainly in the Midlands and the South, to ensure taps keep flowing and around a further 60 areas are on a watch list amid concerns they will not be able to to keep up with demand.

Water restrictions may be needed in the coming weeks as little rain is forecast.

Met Éireann has issued a yellow status warning for Leinster and Munster from tomorrow through Sunday, forecasting temperatures to generally range from 27C to 29C, with the overnight heat not dipping below 15C. Farmers need a license to take water from rivers and lakes

Fry Electronics Team

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