Irish public places a high value on our rivers, lakes and seas

Dr Stephen Hynes, NUI Galway
Oct 28 2014 Posted: 09:44 GMT

The high value placed on our rivers, lakes and seas by the Irish public has been shown in a new research report published by the EPA today. The research, which was undertaken by NUI Galway and Teagasc, illustrates the value placed by the public on our waterways and their associated features.  In the nationwide survey, respondents rated a number of water body features including the health of the aquatic ecosystems, water clarity and smell, access to recreational activities and the conditions of banks and shorelines.


The results demonstrated that respondents assigned the highest value to the aquatic feature of ‘water clarity and smell’ and the lowest values to ‘access to recreational activities’.  While over half of all respondents expressed positive willingness to pay, the research also found that 44% of respondents were unwilling to pay for improvements to Irish water bodies. The main reasons given for this were because they felt that they could not afford to pay or the government should be responsible for the costs of improvement.

Dara Lynott, Deputy Director General of the EPA said, “The quality of our environment is critical to our wellbeing. This EPA funded research shows what value Irish citizens are willing to put on the environmental, health and recreational benefits associated with aquatic environments.  

Dr Stephen Hynes, NUI Galway, explains, “Our research presents new information on what the benefit value is of achieving improved access and better environmental standards on Irish water bodies. Valuing the benefits derived from aquatic ecosystem services allows those managing water bodies (i.e. regional policy makers and related stakeholders) to make more informed decisions in relation to how water bodies might be sustainably developed and managed. Such estimates are also now a requirement for assessments under the Water Framework Directive and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.”

The key findings of the report are:

  • The highest Marginal Willingness to Pay (MWTP) estimates were for a good status of water clarity and smell (€46.48 per respondent per year), which indicates that respondents place a high price on the aesthetic value of water bodies.
  • The lowest MWTP estimate was for secondary access to recreational activity (€11.04 per respondent per year).
  • ‘Cannot afford to pay’ was the main reason given by respondents who were unwilling to pay for improvements to Irish water bodies followed by ‘Government should be pay for improvements’.
  • Findings from the survey showed that respondents’ concern for the water body attributes (health of ecosystems; water clarity and smell; access to recreational activities; condition of banks and shoreline) varied significantly according to the number of times they had visited the water bodies in the past 12 months.
  • There is also evidence that individuals’ recreational use of rivers, lakes and seas differ substantially.
  • The highest frequency of visits to any water body was for the purpose of walking, jogging or running along its boundary. Respondents also, on average, travelled the furthest distance to a water body in order to undertake this particular activity. 
  • Respondents displayed mainly positive opinions on the environmental quality of Irish water bodies, but the extent of this positivity varied somewhat across water body type.
  • The preferred payment vehicle identified by the survey was a once-off lump sum whilst the payment vehicle used in the choice experiment (an increase in personal income tax for 10 years) was only the second most popular payment type listed in the survey.


Marketing and Communications Office