Water management sprung into public consciousness in the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom as charges for domestic water usage – introduced in Ireland in 2015 – were suspended following public opposition. Alex Rolston, Eleanor Jennings, and Suzanne Linnane report on their survey of public opinion on community engagement in water management to find that 95% of respondents believe locals should have a say in running their water environment. But, while 81% feel left out of decisions, just 35.1% are willing to go to local engagement activities.
The report, ‘Water matters: An assessment of opinion on water management and community engagement in the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom’, distills insights for for future community engagement planning. Conducted as part of Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Towards Integrated Water Management (TIMe) Project, the survey reveals participant views on water supply services, and local freshwater bodies (streams, lakes, canals, rivers). It looks at existing knowledge and experience of water-related community engagement, and measures interest in future initiatives.
The survey highlights the social, environmental, and economic importance of freshwater bodies, with 70.9% of respondents making regular visits to local sources. Common goals emerge, pointing to the need for improved engagement, financial incentives that go back into local projects, and greater commitment to local water management. The mounting pressure on water resources demand a collaborative approach, write Rolston et al, pointing out a lack of public awareness on Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) and Integrated Catchment Management (ICM) programs.
With Ireland poised for a government review on water usage charges in 2017, water policy will be a visible topic. The report recommend the creation of water engagement programs that use a national framework supported by policy and local on-ground delivery by government agencies and NGOs. This could further strengthen bottom-up water planning, return the ownership of local water management to communities, and shape the next round of River Basin Management Planning for the EU’s Water Framework Directive, the authors write.
Alec Rolston is Research Associate in the Department of Applied Sciences at Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT) , Ireland. Eleanor Jennings is Director of the Centre for Freshwater and Environmental Studies, DkIT. Suzanne Linnane is Senior Lecturer, leading the water and development theme at the Centre for Freshwater and Environmental Studies, DkIT.
Header photo: William Murphy/Flickr/cc