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PEOPLE OF CLARE do not understand or respect water as a resource, a conservation expert has stated.

Local Authority Waters Programme (LAWPRO) community water officer, Ruairí Ó Conchúir who has been living in Co Clare for the past twenty years and is now based in The Burren outlined that a failure to invest in water infrastructure is now proving costly with relation to the management of Irish Water.

He stated, “Our understanding of water and as a resource is not at the races, water that comes out of people’s taps is a fundamental right but it is fundamentally precious resource. Of course people should pay for it, until they pay for it they won’t respect it,” Ruairí said following a query from Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy (FF).

Contribution of Ennis Tidy Towns volunteers who scuba dive through the River Fergus taking out “tonnes of rubbish and litter” annually was referenced by Ruairí. “We missed a trick in relation to Irish Water more than three decades ago, we are playing catch up. Investment needed now was needed thirty years ago so we have a lot of catching up, it is multi-decade investment that is required”.

Ó Conchúir was addressing a sitting of the Physical Development Strategic Policy Committee (SPC) where he briefed members on the draft river basin management plan for Ireland 2022-2027 which is on public consultation until 31st of March this year. The plan was set up as part of an EU-wide directive and includes ten priority areas for action in Clare, he informed.

Ireland’s current water quality is static, he flagged following a decline from 2013 to 2018, “The health of a river is a measure of the health of the surrounding landscape”.

Cllr Alan O’Callaghan (FF) questioned if the standard of water in rivers was affecting fishing, “I’ve been talking to some older people, they have said some areas were full with fish before but there are none there now”. Broadford is one of the ten catchment zones, he noted, ““Irish Water have a huge role to play. We know there’s raw sewage. How much is Irish Water being pulled in to tidy up their act where systems need to be installed and upgraded”.

Meetings were held in Broadford, Ruairí responded, it along with the water quality of a lot of places in East Clare has been found to be impacted heavily by forestry, “it leads to increased silt in the river and increased if you like things that you don’t like in a river getting into the river”. Land drainage is causing an impact to fishing, he said.

“Huge obstacles” are in the way of councillors when trying to prepare the County Development Plan, Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy (FF). She asked if a different approach was needed when it came to Irish Water, “are we right in our position to take the position we take in that we don’t pay specifically for water”. Elected representatives are trying to allow for the zoning of lands “that won’t contaminate water. Our biggest obstacle to zone lands is Irish Water causing us a huge obstacle”.

Director of Service with the Council, Carmel Kirby told the meeting there is a capital programme committed to deal with untreated operations across Clare. “Water is one of our most precious and scarcest resources, it is really important that we protect and do everything to protect it, as a country we have to weigh up who can pay and can’t pay for, there does need to be greater investment in our wastewater infrastructure”.

Cyril Feeney of the Council’s environment section said the funding model of Irish Water is governed by the Commission of Regulation of Utilities, “they don’t have the funding,” he commented.

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