Developing the Concept of Catchment Services for Progress Towards Integrated Water Management (Extra TIMe)
TIMe Project summary
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.
‘Developing the Concept of Catchment Services for Progress Towards Integrated Water Management (Extra TIMe)’ was a follow-on project funded by the Environmental Protection Agency of Ireland. Extra TIMe had an overarching objective to identify the mechanisms for the feasible delivery of the catchment services concept in Ireland. Building on the TIMe (2015-2016), the Extra TIMe Project had five work packages:
- Identifying national and international concepts and implementation of catchment services programmes;
- Identifying key components of the catchment services concept in Ireland (including benefits and disbenefits of the concept) and how these may change in the future under different climatic, legislative and social/demographic scenarios;
- Identifying the implications of implementing the catchment services concept on governance frameworks and regulations;
- Identifying the implications for community engagement and catchment management in Ireland (thereby linking in with the second cycle of River Basin Management Planning);
- Identifying the feasibility of implementing the catchment services approach in Ireland.
As a result of the project, both management and community awareness of the catchment services and Integrated Catchment Management (ICM) concepts in Ireland were increased.
What is a catchment?
A catchment area can be defined as all of the land that channels rainwater and groundwater into a river or stream, that then typically delivers water to coastal areas. Catchments are complex systems with unique physical, environmental, economic and social drivers, all impacting on the daily lives of local communities. Because of the interdependencies between communities and the physical and social characteristics of a catchment, it is within the geographical unit of the catchment that the integrated development and management of water resources is likely to be most successful. Integrated Catchment Management (ICM) is based on the concepts of catchments as biophysical units in which natural resources are used and ecological and water protection takes place, integration of local community and scientific involvement occurs, and appropriate organisational structures and policy objectives are delivered (Daly et al., 2013). The EPA is strongly promoting Integrated Catchment Management as a sustainable approach to water management in Ireland.
What are catchment services?
The benefits received by ecosystems and humans from resources and processes which are supplied by catchments have been termed ‘catchment services’. The concept of catchment services has been proposed by the EPA as an overarching framework that includes all the relevant elements in a catchment: ecosystem services (the benefits that are derived from ecosystems); geosystem services (the values and services associated with geodiversity – the variety of rocks, soils etc. that determine the character of the landscape and environment); and human-social system services (a variety of social and cultural services which contribute to the life environment). This approach encompasses both biotic and abiotic ecosystem services whilst incorporating the contribution and importance of communities and cultural services into the benefits that catchments provide.
The implementation of forthcoming EU initiatives such as Food Harvest 2020 will also have significant implications with regard to catchment management as statutory bodies strive to achieve the relevant legislative objectives. With the growth of environmentally-focussed initiatives, practices and education, a generational change may be taking place in Ireland that provides the opportunity to fully develop catchment services and catchment-based thinking at both community and management levels. Understanding catchment services can provide a new way to advance the understanding of the benefits for both humans and ecosystems that are derived from catchments, and how these benefits will change in a non-stationary world. With catchment-based initiatives in the UK estimated to cost over £100 billion over the next 15 years (Indepen, 2014), the necessity to ensure understanding and recognition of the importance of catchment-based thinking and catchment services in Ireland is paramount to ensure cost-effectiveness of actions and engagement with, and ownership of, catchment-based actions by local communities.
Daly, D., Archbald, M., and Deakin, J. (2013). Water Framework Directive implementation and Integrated Catchment Management. Where are we now? Where are we going? An EPA view. National Hydrology Conference.
Indepen (2014). Discussion paper on the potential for catchment services in England: Wessex Water, Severn Trent Water and South West Water. Indepen Ltd., London.