Ireland’s rivers have become increasingly polluted and almost half have unsatisfactory water quality, a report has found.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said that fertilisers and animal waste from farming was the main cause of a drop in water quality, although urban waste water and forestry plantation were also identified as being issues.
The study looked at almost 2,700 water bodies in Ireland, including rivers, lakes and reservoirs, between 2013 and 2018, comparing it to the period between 2010 and 2015.
It found that 68.4 per cent of sites were stable, maintaining the same level of water quality, 13.6 per cent improved, while 18 per cent declined.
This was almost entirely due to a decline in the quality of river water, with just 53 per cent of rivers reporting “satisfactory” river quality.
The number of seriously polluted rivers, dubbed “the worst of the worst” also increased slightly, from six to nine, after years of an improving trend.
There has also been a serious drop in the number of “pristine” rivers, which are considered to have the best water quality. While there were more than 500 in the late 1980s, this has dropped to just 20. This was down from 30 in 2017.
Matt Crowe, a director of the EPA, said that the results of the environmental watchdog’s study were disappointing.
“The findings of this report indicate that water quality is getting worse after a period of relative stability and improvement,” he said.
“We now have an increase in the number of the most polluted river sites, and the number of rivers in poor ecological health is also increasing. Positive trends reported previously by the EPA have reversed.
“Not only are we failing to improve overall water quality, we are also failing to prevent further deterioration of our rivers.”