Ireland may already be subject to substantial EU fines for breaches of existing water-quality legislation. However, if development continues at even a fraction of the current pace, a lot more damage could be done before an EU "good status" deadline comes into effect in 2015.
This is not some politician speaking - it's the underlying message in a new State-funded publication. Water Matters, issued by seven local authorities in the Western River Basin District (WRBD), identifies pollution, physical modification of waterways and abstraction of unsustainable amounts of water as being among the main issues affecting quality.
The western river basin covers about one-fifth of the State, with a land area spanning almost 12,000sq km, a 2,700km coastline and a further 4,683sq km of marine waters. The region has more than 5,600 lakes, ranging from less than a hectare to the largest, Lough Corrib, which measures 165sq km.
Galway city's growth rate is putting serious strain on these resources and on waste-water treatment needs.
Efforts by local authorities to recognise this are likely to be subject to political pressure, however. Galway County Council has refused to allow any more home connections to the mid-Galway water scheme.
Fine Gael TD Paul Connaughton says "hundreds of young couples" are being prevented from building homes on family land because of this, while the Luimnagh (Tuam) waterworks supplying this area is being diverted, in part to meet the crisis in Galway city.
The WRBD is seeking public comments over the next six months in response to the publication, which is available at www.westernrbd.ie or through the WRBD project office in Liosban, Galway, 091-746804.
© 2007 The Irish Times