News 2019

Title:  Mountains - the water towers of the world
Date:  11/12/2019

Mountains - the watertowers of the world

A message for International Mountain Day

The 11th of December each year is International Mountain Day, a day to celebrate the importance of mountains, not only to hillwalkers and climbers, but to everyone in Ireland and across the world, and also to highlight the need for policies to protect mountain ecosystems, especially in this time of climate change.

Mountains - the water towers of the world

A recent international assessment of 78 mountain glacier-based water systems which supply water resources to 1.9 billion people has shown the importance of mountains as the water towers of the world, but also how vulnerable mountains are to the threats of climate change, growing populations, mismanagement of water resources and other geopolitical factors.

The study, which was led by Utrecht University, concluded that it is essential to develop international, mountain-specific conservation and climate change adaptation policies and strategies to safeguard both ecosystems and people downstream.

Ireland’s declining water quality

The importance of mountains to water supply is reflected in Ireland too; almost 82% of our drinking water comes from surface water, rivers and lakes, which in turn have their origin in upland areas. The Environmental Protection Agency has reported this week that river water quality in Ireland is deteriorating, with only 53% of our surface water bodies found to have satisfactory water quality in the period from 2013-2018.

The EPA report emphasises the continued loss of pristine river water bodies in Ireland.  We now have just 20 pristine (or ‘best of the best’) river sites down from over 500 sites in the late 1980s. The management of Ireland’s upland areas has a key role in maintaining and improving river water quality. This reinforces the Irish Uplands Forum’s recent call for specific policies to support the sustainable management of Ireland’s upland areas.

Celebrate and remember the importance of Ireland’s mountains

Mike Maunsell, Vice-President of the UIAA’s Mountain Protection Commission, and a director of Mountaineering Ireland, summed up the importance of mountains for everyone in Ireland saying

“As we celebrate International Mountain Day it is an opportunity to remember that Ireland's mountains are fragile ecosystems, they play a vital role primarily as watersheds, providing important goods and services such as clean water to society. Their management requires special planning and adequate measures to sustainably secure productive, protective, cultural and recreational functions. The UIAA Mountain Protection Commission supports the continued hard work of Mountaineering Ireland as advocates for the protection of sustainable mountain ecosystems and their communities.”


Utrecht University study on the Watertowers of the World 

EPA report on Water Quality in Ireland 2013-2018 

Launch of Irish Uplands Forum research 

Mountaineering Ireland's Vision for the Future of Ireland's Mountains and Uplands Areas


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