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Iceberg model for enforcement of environmental legislation - Drinking water case study

From EPSA - European Public Sector Award

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed the iceberg model of enforcement to provide a framework to tackle poor compliance with EU environmental legislation. The model was successfully used in Ireland to tackle an EU infringement case (316/00) relating to drinking water quality; it has also been used in other infringement proceedings and has applicability across all environmental legislation. Within three years of using the new model, the European Court of Justice case against Ireland on drinking water quality was closed in March 2010, and a 50% decrease in the detection of E.coli in public drinking water was reported in 2011. The EPA iceberg model of enforcement uses two broad approaches: supporting measures (below the water surface), such as a network and audits, along with visible measures (above the water surface), such as sanctions and national reports (‘name and shame’) to achieve a regulatory outcome. The model involves a combination of enforcement tools to deliver outcomes for the environment, and the tools are selected and applied on the basis of risk.

The EPA became the regulator for the quality aspects of public drinking water supplies in 2007 and immediately recognised that a new way of working was needed to achieve a regulatory outcome for citizens. EPA persuaded the Department of Environment to fund a (€10 million) national programme of special monitoring equipment that would help reduce E.coli in drinking water. As part of this strategic intervention EPA inspectors persuaded and educated 34 local authorities to install and use the necessary equipment across all 900 public water supplies. Another strategic intervention involved the development of a national remedial action list of supplies (339). This dynamic list became known as the Remedial Action List or RAL. The central government backed the initiative with a fund of €274 million to tackle problem supplies on the RAL. A national enforcement network of officers, from the 34 local authorities (operators of the plants), Department of Environment (funding Agency), the EPA (Regulator for quality aspects) and the Health Service Executive (responsible for Public Health) was harnessed as a vehicle to tackle the drinking water challenge. The network delivered the fundamental shift and linked everybody in the chain responsible for delivering drinking water from the water catchment to the consumer.

To facilitate communication an extranet was developed to allow members to share enforcement information. Enforcement officers could identify other colleagues dealing with similar enforcement issues and have access to the latest protocols developed by the network. The use of this electronic forum allowed the induction of new local authority staff or the transfer of staff into any enforcement area (i.e. from waste, water or air), where they might not have had previous experience. Operating above the water line, the EPA publishes an annual drinking water report highlighting progress made with supplies on the RAL, as well as naming and shaming any local authority subject to enforcement action up to and including prosecution during the year.

Award info
Award category: going green
Award type: submission
Award year: 2011
Project type
Sector: Environment, climate change, agriculture (incl. food safety) and fishery
Type of activity:
Keywords: Drinking water, enforcement
Short English description: The model was successfully used in Ireland to tackle an EU infringement case (316/00) relating to drinking water quality; it has also been used in other infringement proceedings and has applicability across all environmental legislation.
Further information
Organisation: EPA
Other applicants:
Homepage: http://www.epa.ie
Level of government: national level
Size of organisation: >100
Number of people involved: 11-15
Country: Ireland
EU membership: EU member
Language code: en
Start date:
End date:


Iceberg model for enforcement of environmental legislation - Drinking water case study (52.3391609, -6.4601247)
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