Research

Our Focus

The activity of Acclimatize will, first, be centred on engagement with local stakeholders to design and deliver a new empirical evidence-base using complementary cutting edge science techniques in Ireland and Wales. The immediate result will be a strong evidence-base which will be used to drive new predictive modelling of climate change drivers on the sustainable use of coastal bathing and, potentially, shellfish harvesting waters.

Acclimatize will focus on designated and ‘at-risk’ bathing waters in two complementary environments: a large scale urban environment and a rural agricultural environment. The large scale urban environment is represented by ‘at-risk’ bathing waters in Dublin Bay (Sandymount, Merrion and Dollymount strands), whereas the rural agricultural environment in Wales will focus on the 5 main ‘at-risk’ bathing waters in Wales namely Wiseman’s Bridge (Pembrokeshire), Newquay North and Aberystwyth South (Ceredigion, Aberdyfi (Gwynedd) and Rhyl (Denbighshire). The bathing waters in these contrasting environments are impaired by different factors and will certainly experience different effects from climate change.

The Acclimatize operation enjoys strong support and participation of local authorities as well as national agencies in Ireland and Wales. These include Irish Water, the Environmental Protection Agency, Dublin City Council, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, Fingal County Council, Natural Resources Wales and the Wales Heads of Environmental Health Group representing 22 Welsh local authorities and the Port Health Authorities.

The informed choice of appropriate future climate change scenarios is crucial at this stage and close working with the relevant policy communities in both nations will characterise this element. The evidence base and climate projections will be used in a novel modelling approach to derive impact statements for each identified ‘at-risk’ bathing water in both study areas. This will be underpinned by local modelling of water quality driven by the new quantification of pollutant fluxes impacting on sustainable use of coastal waters. The statements of potential impact at each bathing water can then be used to design, where appropriate, sustainable remediation strategies to ensure continued resource use off these ‘at-risk’ coastal waters through the challenging era of climate change expected in the period to 2100.

Need for the operation

Climate change is predicted to produce more weather extremes and, in particular, storminess in North West Europe including the Irish Sea. This will have negative impacts on coastal water quality in the period to 2100 which will threaten the sustainable use of coastal waters which form the economic basis of coastal tourism and shellfish harvesting industries in the convergence areas.

Improvement of bathing waters is often complicated, or prevented altogether, by a lack of knowledge of the pollution streams that contribute to non-compliance. While local authorities readily identify problem bathing waters as part of their monitoring protocols during the bathing season, they often lack the resources and technical know-how to identify, and most important, quantify the sources of pollution.

Bathing water quality is strongly influenced by weather conditions, in particular rainfall and solar radiation. Climate change, will affect the amount, intensity and timing of precipitation, and will therefore have significant impacts on future bathing water quality and, hence, on local economies depending on excellent bathing water quality for tourism and marine economic activities. Climate change will also impact bathing waters in different ways, depending on the origins of pollution. The aforementioned lack of knowledge regarding contributing pollution streams, thus, severely hampers the ability to predict the specific effects of climate change on a particular bathing water. Climate proofing of regulatory and infrastructural decisions affecting bathing water quality is therefore a policy challenge urgently needing the policy evidence-base we will provide in Acclimatize.

Changes sought by the operation:

  • Delivery of sustainable use of at-risk bathing waters through the challenging time of climate change which presents a new existential threat to already disadvantaged coastal communities in the convergence zone.
  • Identification of the main pollution pressures on bathing waters in urban and rural settings.
  • Definition of the vulnerability of these bathing waters to the effects of climate change, thus, filling the gaps in the policy evidence-base that currently exist and which the Ireland-Wales Territorial Cooperation Programme seeks to address.
  • Development of practical management methods, including smart real-time predictive tools leading to the improvement of the marine environment and human health protection.
  • Development of tools to minimise the impact, risk and vulnerability of the Irish Sea, in particular bathing waters and associated coastal communities to climate change.
  • To act as a platform for sharing knowledge concerning risks and opportunities from climate change between stakeholders in Ireland and Wales

Results

The results of the Acclimatize project will be of significant benefit to public health, the local economy and the ecosystems of which these bathing waters are part. The operation, thus, contributes to the preservation and enhancement of the marine and coastal environment for the enjoyment of future generations in the face of the increasing impacts of climate change.

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This project has been part funded by the ERDF though the Ireland Wales Programme 2014 -2020.
www.irelandwales.eu