Up to 6,500 farm inspections will take place every year as part of the new River Basin Management Plan 2018-2021.

According to the IFA, the new plan to protect Irish waterways builds on the €5bn investment already made by farmers and the State to ensure high environmental standards oo farms. The farm organisation’s national environment chair added that 50,000 farmers also fence off water courses, plant buffer zones and participate in the agri-environmental scheme GLAS.

Agri-food growth

“The plan acknowledges that water quality in Ireland has remained relatively unchanged over the past decade, despite a period of growth and development in the agri-food sector,” Cooney said at the launch on Tuesday. “However there is no room for complacency. Initiatives in the plan such as the new Sustainability Support and Advisory Programme (SSAP) provides an important platform to encourage and support behavioural change.”

However, the Sustainable Water Network (SWAN) says that the Government’s plan does not go far enough. It said that the plan lacks the political will needed to support Ireland’s claims to be a ''green'' tourist destination and threatens its capability to become a truly environmentally-friendly food producer through such programmes as Origin Green.

State investment

“Far more state investment is urgently needed to end the discharge of raw and poorly treated sewage into our rivers and bays,” said Sinead O’Brien, coordinator of the SWAN. “Also, grant-aid to farmers must shift so as to support farming that prevents water pollution, protects the rural landscape and contributes to sustainable flood management, rather than encouraging an intensification programme not yet proven to be sustainable.”

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