3. Catchment Management Plans
3.1 Draft RBMP and Submission Proposals
The dRBMP calls on the Local Authority Waters Programme (LAWPRO) to develop a template for the Catchment Management Plans (CMP) in consultation with stakeholders.
Action 2: Production of templates for the catchment management plans that will be put in place for each of the 46 hydrometric catchments.
Another important action in the dRBMP is for the ‘DHLGH to provide clarification on the roles and responsibilities of the various implementation bodies, shifting emphasis from the sharing of information and the provision of updates to a more focused provision of high-level policy direction, monitoring implementation of the Plan, and project management’.
The DHLGH has published a public consultation document gov.ie - Third Cycle Draft River Basin Management Plan 2022-2027 - Consultation Report (www.gov.ie) on the submissions it received on the dRBMP. Some comments relate to the proposed CMPs as follows:
- The OPW would welcome further discussion and engagement on the template and preparation of the proposed local catchment management plans to ensure a coordinated approach towards the achievement of multiple benefits.
- SWAN in their submission ‘welcomes the commitment to develop 46 Catchment Management Plans, which we recommended in our SWMI submission. We further welcome the increased references to, and recognition of, the importance of Integrated Catchment Management. We note that it is still not clear how and where in the current [RBMP] governance structure operational integrated catchment-scale management will take place.’
One of their recommendations is
‘The public must be involved from the start in the development of action plans for their local waters through the 46 Catchment Management Plans, with catchment groups resourced to ensure effectiveness, equity, and inclusiveness of engagement. There must be clear mechanisms for better integrating stakeholder groups into governance and decision-making and this should be facilitated by an expanded team of a minimum of 46 Community Water Officers at catchment level.’
As the 3rd Cycle River Basin Management Plan has yet to be published, some assumptions have been made in the preparation of this discussion document.
- Integrated Catchment Management will continue to be the approach taken for the implementation of the River Basin Management Plan (RBMP) in Ireland 2022 - 2027, with catchments, sub-catchments and water bodies as the functional areas and units of the Plan.
- The Framework for Integrated Land and Landscape Management (FILLM) proposed by An Fóram Uisce, is reflected in the RBMP, and promotes a systems approach towards the management of our natural environment – air, water, ecosystems, soils, rocks, land and landscapes. This will take a whole of Government approach over a number of years, therefore implementation of the RBMP will seek to embed the systems approach in the implementation of measures and actions associated with water resource management.
- A Catchment Management Plan will be prepared for each of the 46 Irish Catchments. A pilot phase involving 5 catchments, one per LAWPRO Region, is proposed. The pilot phase will allow for LAWPRO and the EPA to work with the implementing bodies to bring current work programme reporting into line with the dRBMP reporting requirements. It is assumed that five pilot catchments will be used to inform the development of a template for the Catchment Management Plans for future roll out across other catchments over time. Preparation of all 46 plans will be on a phased basis, during the lifetime of the 3rd cycle RBMP.
- Each sector will prepare action plans and report on implementation at site or water body scale. The sectoral action plans will be a fundamental aspect of the CMPs. It is assumed that there will be full engagement by implementing bodies in the pilot process for the development of the template Catchment Management Plan.
- Each Local Authority currently prepares an enforcement plan under the Recommended Minimum Criteria for Environmental Inspections (RMCEI) process. These plans are guided by National Enforcement Priorities set by the EPA. It is assumed that the water element of these plans will be incorporated into the Catchment Management Plans over time. These plans will also provide a basis against which to assess implementation of measures through the EPA’s environmental performance of local authorities’ annual reports. It is therefore assumed that RMCEI plans will align with and reflect the level of ambition set out in the draft RBMP.
- Over time reports on county level implementation of the Catchment Management Plans will be accessible through a web-based platform such as catchments.ie
- The 3rd Cycle RBMP will seek to engage and involve local communities in the integrated management of their respective catchments. LAWPRO considers the term ‘communities’ to include individuals, catchment associations, Rivers Trusts, and specific interest groups, such as angling clubs. These local fora will provide a more meaningful role for communities engaged with LAWPRO and the river basin management planning process over the last number of years, and new participants who wish to get involved, in implementation of the 3rd Cycle RBMP. As a result, participation in these fora will increase water literacy and capacity within communities for activities and actions that protect and restore local waterbodies in line with RBMP objectives.
- The ‘Right measure in the right place’ is a guiding ethos for RBMP action in Ireland i.e., a scientific evidence basis is mandatory to inform what measures/actions are necessary, and where they need to be targeted to deliver water quality outcomes. This ethos must be explicit in each implementing body’s work programmes, and will drive the assignment of roles and responsibilities, strategies, action plans and budgets for the implementation of measures to achieve RBMP objectives. Catchment characterisation at various scales is essential to ensure actions target known issues and significant pressures. Ensuring the right measure in the right location can deliver multiple benefits for water and biodiversity, while also adhering to value for money principles. Measures implemented without characterisation or monitoring of effectiveness will not be promoted.
- Data Management Systems, and a ‘Track as we go’ approach will be central to the success or failure of the 3rd cycle. Work on suitable systems should start now as a matter of urgency. Avoidance of duplication of effort to be central to the development of any data management system. Data sharing agreements are essential to allow for effective data exchange and evaluation of measures as well as for reporting in terms of measures.
3.3 Aims and Objectives: draft Catchment Management Plans in Pilot Catchments
The aims for the draft Catchment Management Plans (CMPs) are to:
- Make a direct link with the RBMP Programme of Measures and objectives for each pilot catchment.
- Confirm roles and responsibilities for implementation of the POMs in the RBMP.
- Provide the scientific evidence at a water body scale, collated at catchment scale for the pilot areas.
- Outline the vision and outcomes for the pilot catchment (link with CCF over time).
- Outline priorities for water bodies to influence scheduling of actions (link with CCF over time in terms of delivery of measures).
- Implementing bodies to trial the sectoral action plan template with 2023 data from existing work plans. LAWPRO will work with the implementing bodies in the pilot catchment areas.
- Integrate LA RMCEI plans from within pilot catchment areas into the draft CMP.
- Set out reporting requirements on the monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of measures by implementing bodies and community led projects.
- Report on EPA monitoring of water quality and monitoring of effectiveness of individual measures.
The core aim for the draft CMPs in the five pilot catchments (Figure 3) is to trial a formal method for gathering and dissemination of information on the catchment characteristics and water quality issues, with a system for tracking actions and activities, by implementing bodies and the community, to protect and improve the water quality locally. This will also provide clarity around responsibilities for implementation of measures identified in sectoral action plans. The pilot CMPs will inform a framework and template for the intended development CMPs for all 46 catchments.
Figure 4 Catchment Management Plan Approach
3.4 Delivery of the Pilot Catchments Management Plans
It is proposed that the development of the CMPs will evolve over time, from an initial plan setting out minimum mandatory actions to implement measures set out in the RBMP to one where the Catchment Community Fora, when established, will have an influential role. The pilot phase will allow for a period of ‘learn by doing’ in terms of the development of the action plans. Learnings and recommendations will inform a framework and template for the development of further Catchment Management Plans.
Outline plan for the development of initial CMPs
- LAWPRO meetings with implementing body on action plan process.
- Agree pilot action plan template for each implementing body and EPA.
- Agree CMP outline template with DHLGH and EPA.
- Data sharing agreements to be put in place with EPA.
- DHLGH to give instruction to implementing body to prepare action plan.
- Agree with LAs and EPA on how RMCEI plans will be integrated into CMP.
- LAWPRO to present road map to Regional Operational Committee (ROC) /Regional Management Committee (RMC).
- Implementing bodies to present updates on action plan preparations to ROC and RMC.
- LAWPRO to gather characterisation data.
- Sectoral action plans to be submitted to LAWPRO and EPA.
- LAWPRO present draft CMP from the pilot catchments to ROC/RMC/ pilot CCF.
- LAWPRO to provide the conduit for information from the community representatives in the pilot catchments on how the work of the CCF can influence the template for the preparation of Catchment Management Plans.
- Feedback to National Co-ordination and Management Committee (NCMC).
- Recommendation and feedback to inform the final CMP template.