The water quality at Lough Lene deteriorated last year, according to a new report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),
The report revealed that Lough Lene was one of 26 around the country whose water quality deteriorated between 2013 and 2017.
The cause of the downgrading of the water quality at Lough Lene – from good to moderate – was “due to an assessment of its fish community”, the report states.
Speaking to the Westmeath Examiner, one of the authors of the report, Wayne Trodd, said the standard of a water body’s fish population is one of the elements that the EPA uses when assessing its water quality.
“We pick the worse one of all the elements and because the fish was the lowest (Inland Fisheries Ireland downgraded the lake’s fish community to moderate in 2016), overall the water quality was classified as moderate,” he said.
Mr Trodd also said that any classification below good is failing the EU’s acceptable environmental standard.
Nationwide, the EPA found that overall the water quality in Irish waters deteriorated between 2015 and 2017.
While the quality has improved in 197 water bodies, it deteriorated in 269.
Most pollution is caused by too much nitrogen and phosphorus entering waters. Despite a long-term reduction, recent data indicates that levels of nitrogen and phosphorus are beginning to rise again.
The report also identified a number of positive changes, such as a decrease in serious pollution. Only two rivers were classified as seriously polluted between 2015 and 2017 compared to five between 2013 and 2015.
Fish kills are also at an all-time low and only 14 were reported in 2017 compared to 31 in 2016.
Commenting on the report, Dr Matt Crowe, director of the EPA’s Office of Evidence and Assessment said: “Clean, healthy water is essential to our health and wellbeing. The signals in this report are not good and tell us that water quality is still getting worse in some areas despite improvements in others.
“This is simply unacceptable. We must do more to halt deterioration in water quality so that we protect this most precious public resource.”