On 11 June, the EPA launched its report: Water Quality in 2023: An Indicators Report.

Without rehashing the full report here in this column, I will instead highlight the first two points from the EPA press release:

  • There has been no significant change in any of the water quality indicators for Ireland’s rivers, lakes, estuaries and groundwaters in 2023 and no sign of improvement overall.
  • While improvements are happening in some rivers and lakes, these are being offset by declines elsewhere.
  • Neither of the two points above are overly positive, they are however, reflective of science and of measurements taken of our water sources by the EPA.

    Water quality is an exceptionally complex issue, it is not as simple as putting one measure in place and sitting back and awaiting results that should appear overnight, that is not the real world. When the environment does not react immediately to changes that have been made and continue to be made, then we should continue to follow the science instead of perusing the narrative that it is all agriculture’s fault.

    Agriculture is doing its part. Agriculture is taking responsibility for effects of its activities on the environment. Agriculture is continuing to invest in uncertain times in capital projects that will result in improvements in our water quality.

    Having said that we have to be cognisant that we have more farmers over 80 than under 35, yes Macra is rolling out this old chestnut again, as it is true. Expecting a cohort of farmers who have given 60-70 years of unbroken service to Irish food production to continue to make the changes required is at best unfair.

    This older generation has always followed the science, whether it was clearing hedgerows, draining lands or building roads to nowhere up mountains, science has changed.

    We also need to change, we need to see younger farmers getting the opportunity to farm in a progressive, sustainable manner. For that they need access to the land that is farmed.

    It has stopped getting worse, we now need patience and further investment to ensure that the changes that are being implemented get a chance to work.