Towards Integrated Water Management (TIMe) Project

The Towards Integrated Water Management (TIMe) was funded by the 2014 Environmental Protection Agency of Ireland's Water Research Pillar. Water and the aquatic environment are important components in the everyday lives of the people of Ireland. Promoting local involvement in water management is key to empowering communities and moving towards developing partnerships with governing authorities rather than the historical view of enforcement and regulation. Outside of the legislative River Basin Management Plans, the majority of initiatives that have attempted to implement Integrated Catchment Management (ICM) processes in Ireland to engage communities in the local water environment have been undertaken at the individual project level rather than through an integrated national policy that is supported by State legislation.

Identifying Pressures

The opportunity exists for coordination at the national level to carefully plan and manage local resources in collaboration and partnership with communities and to harness the goodwill that successful partnerships can produce. This research has examined international best practice in Integrated Water Resources Management, Integrated Catchment Management and community engagement to identify key gaps that exist in water-focussed community engagement initiatives in Ireland. A survey assessing current opinion in water management and community engagement undertaken in April 2015 identified that 81 % of respondents did not feel included in decisions about their water environment. However, an overwhelming 95 % of respondents stated that local communities should have a say in how the water environment is managed.

Informing Policy

Survey respondents identified that although there was significant interest in becoming involved in local water management initiatives, there was a distinct lack of opportunities to become involved with. In addition, the historical view of governing agencies administering top-down regulation and enforcement, coupled with the lack of national coordination of community engagement in the water sector, has resulted in many communities which are disengaged and frustrated. This research has identified the risks and qualitative costs and benefits associated with both filling and not filling the key gaps in current water management and community engagement processes. In addition, a process has been developed for protecting the drinking water sources of larger urban areas in larger catchments in order to identify priority areas where both management actions and community engagement initiatives can be implemented.

Developing Solutions

This research has identified clear avenues as to how governing bodies in Ireland can engage and empower local communities in water-related management actions, leading to a more integrated water-focussed society in Ireland. These solutions include:

  • Developing a national water management and community engagement framework to provide guidance and consistency for engagement initiatives into the future.
  • Investigating priority locations for the establishment of community-managed hubs as focal points for community access to ICM information and resources.
  • Developing strategic initiatives to encourage local businesses to support local water management actions.
  • Developing national ICM-focussed primary and secondary school educational initiatives.
  • Developing and providing support to ICM-centred citizen science initiatives.
  • Increasing the number and frequency of local ICM-focussed initiatives that communities can become involved with.
  • Undertaking engagement initiatives to raise awareness of local water management issues and how local communities can be involved in mitigation and support strategies.
  • Developing a framework for the appropriate monitoring and evaluation of engagement initiatives.
  • Initiating a one-stop website which provides guidance and advice on ICM.

Project Recommendations

  • Implement the necessary actions to fill the 9 key gaps in current water management and community engagement identified by the project and listed above.
  • Expand the EPA Catchment Management Network to include community representatives.
  • Strongly promote the engagement actions to be undertaken for the second round of River Basin Management Planning to raise awareness of and participation in the actions.
  • When undertaking source protection planning at the larger catchment scale, it is important to assess available water quality data and the risk of not meeting WFD objectives rather than relying solely on WFD ecological status to identify priority areas for further investigations. Making the data available through the recent WFD App (currently available to all public bodies) accessible to the general public will assist in transparency and openness between agencies and the public whilst also encouraging further engagement and collaboration.

 

Project Staff:

Dr Alec Rolston

Dr Eleanor Jennings

Dr Suzanne Linnane

 

To download the Towards Integrated Water Management Synthesis and Final Reports, please click on the pdf file links below.

For information on the 'Water Management and Community Engagement' Workshop, please click on the link below.

Files: