We all use our Blue Spaces (rivers, lakes and seas) in different ways – some of us get in swimming, kayaking, sailing, fishing or paddling with the kids. Others watch from our shores, running, walking or cycling. Some of us are dependent on our recreational waters for our livelihoods; some of us work in research, policy and regulation to protect our waters; others use our waters every day for fun, some as day trippers others annual staycationers. Whatever relationship you have with our rivers, lakes and seas in Ireland – you are entitled to have a say in how to protect and improve their usage in the future.

The PIER Blue Spaces Survey gave water stakeholders an opportunity to have their voice heard on the barriers to using Blue Spaces in Ireland. Over 1500 of you told us the reasons why our rivers, lakes and seas are important to you. 

The survey was launched in May 2021 and is now closed. The voices of those who participated will help us develop collective strategies to make our rivers, lakes and seas better in the future.

What have PIER done so far?

Protecting our Blue Spaces is a complex process and the PIER team have spent the last 2 years identifying the different types of stakeholders who use our rivers, lakes and seas in Ireland directly and/or indirectly. This process allows us to begin to understand the interrelationships between stakeholders; the complex dynamics of these relationships as well as potential conflicting perspectives related to improving and protecting recreational waters. This process is important as it helps us understand the different types of stakeholders who have a ‘stake’ or voice in this issue. It also helps us to communicate more effectively with stakeholders from different backgrounds and begin the collaborative change process.

Beginning the conversation…

The conversation around protecting and maintaining our rivers, lakes and seas in Ireland has begun and recently we undertook 15 in-depth interviews with stakeholders from a range of backgrounds such as swimmers, environmentalists, non-profit organisations and local authorities. These stakeholders shared their views on the barriers and facilitators to using our waters and protecting our water quality. We also gathered information on what is working well in Ireland to improve our waters and what type of collaborations have been formed.

Broadening the conversation…

The #BlueSpcaesd survey allowed us to broaden this conversation – any adult citizen living in the Republic of Ireland was invited to take part and have their say through this survey. 

The views and opinions of everyone that participated will be analysed and the final steps of this process will be to host a workshop with survey participants to discuss what we have been told and develop a map outlining the key issues that need to be addressed. This map will help us prioritise change strategies which are specific to the issues faced in Irish society.

What is this process called?

We are using a methodology called Systems Dynamic Modelling to guide the process. There are 5 stages all focused on trying to understand the complexities of improving our recreational waters. We know that our health, the environment and our economy are all interconnected and by understanding recreational water usage from a multi-stakeholder perspective we can understand and predict the dynamic behaviours which are taking place within the system and develop change strategies to address them.