New €6.7m water quality initiative launched

10 March 2017

Researchers at Aberystwyth University and University College Dublin are collaborating on a new EU-backed initiative to combat the effects of climate change on bathing waters in Wales and Ireland.

The €6.7m Acclimatize project was announced today (Friday 10 March 2017) by Welsh Government Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford AM.

It aims to improve the quality of seashores in both regions to boost tourism as well as support marine and agricultural activities.

Led by University College Dublin in partnership with Aberystwyth University, the project will identify sources of pollution and its impact on bathing waters as a result of climate change.

Backed with ‎€5.3m from the EU’s Ireland Wales Cooperation programme, the project will use and develop a range of technologies, including smart real‐time predictive tools to monitor water quality to protect the marine environment and human health.

Welsh Government Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford AM said: “Preserving and enhancing the marine and coastal environment in Wales and Ireland for economic prosperity and enjoyment by current and future generations is of vital importance.

“This is another positive example of how EU funds are supporting local economies and communities by helping to mitigate the impacts of climate change.”

The Aberystwyth University team is led by Professor David Kay from the Centre for Research into Environment and Health at the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences.

Professor Kay has been developing technology for monitoring bacteria and pathogens in bathing and shellfish harvesting waters and where drinking water is abstracted since the late 1970s.

Combining field work and laboratory analysis, the Aberystwyth team will focus on ‘at risk’ beaches in Wales, starting with Cemaes Bay on Anglesey.

Based on their findings, real-time models will be developed to inform the effects of climate change through altered weather patterns affecting rainfall, temperature and tidal affects on this valuable coastal resource in Wales.

Professor Kay said: “Climate change is predicted to increase extreme rainfalls which transport pollutants to the coast. The timing and magnitude of these effects is key to predicting their impacts on key resources such as bathing and shellfish harvesting waters. A core element of the Acclimatize project is to predict these effects and suggest mitigation strategies where adverse impacts are predicted as the climate changes.

“The Acclimatize project is designed to develop and implement smart and innovative management approaches which will build resilience and sustainability to our coastal water used for bathing and shellfish harvesting. This will make a significant contribution to the delivery of Our Sustainable Future - A Framework for sustainable development for Ireland (2012) and The Environment Wales Act (2016) both in the areas of natural resources management and climate change to underpin economic growth centred on recreation, tourism and the sustainable management of Wales' coastal ecosystems.”

In Ireland, the project will focus on bathing waters in Dublin Bay and is led by Professor Wim Meijer of University College Dublin.

Professor Meijer said: “Working in partnership with Aberystwyth University, the Acclimatize project will make a significant contribution to developing innovative management systems to protect our coastal waters from the impact of climate change. As a result, this will support economic growth through improved water quality which will lead to a range of benefits such as increased tourism and shellfish harvesting in Ireland and Wales.”