Catchment News

Bathing water quality continues to improve but pollution incidents affect some beaches

The EPA has published the Bathing Water in Ireland report for 2020 which sets out the quality of bathing water at our beaches.  Overall, bathing water quality improved across the country in 2020. However, the report highlights that water quality can change quickly in the short term, especially during rainfall events which can wash pollution into our bathing waters.

  • Bathing water quality continued to improve in 2020 with 96 per cent of bathing waters (142 of 148) meeting or exceeding the minimum   required standard
  • 111 bathing waters were classified as excellent for 2020, up from 107 in 2019
  • Bathing water quality at four beaches was classified as Poor, compared with five in 2019
  • Pollution incidents, especially during heavy rainfall, can impact bathing water quality on a short-term and localised basis
  • Swimmers should check the latest bathing water quality information at www.beaches.ie

The continued improvement in bathing water quality is welcome.  It is also positive to see two new beaches being identified in 2020, and to see improvements at two beaches that had poor water quality previously. Good quality bathing waters are important now more than ever as more people enjoy our natural amenities, and particularly swimming. With many people now swimming outside the bathing season, the EPA is calling for additional water quality monitoring at beaches where there are large numbers of year-round swimmers, and that this information is made available to the public

EPA Director Dr Eimear Cotter 

The water quality at some beaches can be impacted when pollution, from wastewater and agriculture, gets washed in following heavy rainfall.

Swimmers are encouraged to check www.beaches.ie for the most up to date water quality information.  Local authorities and Irish Water must continue to address sources of water pollution which impact some of our beaches to ensure that public health is protected.

In summary the key findings of the Bathing Water in Ireland report for 2020 were:

  • 96 per cent of bathing waters (142 of 148) met or exceeded the minimum required standard.  This is up from 95 per cent in 2019.
  • 111 (75 per cent) bathing waters were classified as ‘Excellent’, up from 107 in 2019
  • 4 bathing waters were classified as ‘Poor’, down from 5 in 2019. Local Authority management plans have been put in place to address the sources of pollution. The bathing waters classified as ‘Poor’ were:
    • Clifden Beach, Co. Galway
    • Lilliput – Lough Ennell, Co. Westmeath
    • Cúas Crom, Co. Kerry
    • Balbriggan – Front Strand Beach, Co. Dublin
  • Clifden Beach has been classified as ‘Poor’ for five years in a row and must now be declassified as a bathing water for 2021.
  • Galway Co. Co. and Fingal Co. Co. have taken actions to improve bathing water quality at two bathing waters that were Poor in 2019:
    • Ballyloughane Beach, Co. Galway improved from ‘Poor’ to ‘Sufficient’
    • Portrane (the Brook) Beach, Co. Dublin improved from ‘Poor’ to ‘Good’
  • Two new bathing waters were identified in 2020 and will be classified for the first time following the 2021 season. They were Carrigaholt and Quilty, both in Co. Clare:
  • 57 pollution incidents were reported to EPA during 2020. Incidents have the potential to cause a pollution risk and when they occur, swimming restrictions are applied at the beach until sampling shows the water quality is safe.
  • The most common cause of pollution incidents in 2020 was discharges from urban wastewater systems. Irish Water needs to make improvements in the operation and management of urban wastewater treatment plants and networks where these impact on bathing waters.
  • Local authorities also put up 135 ‘Prior Warning’ notices at beaches in 2020, to warn swimmers that short-term pollution (lasting no more than a few days) may occur due to heavy rainfall. These warnings are removed when sampling shows the water quality is safe.

Throughout this summer water quality information and details of any incidents affecting bathing waters will be displayed on the www.beaches.ie website.

The EPA reminds anyone using or swimming at beaches this year to follow the public health advice hse.ie/coronavirus/ and any local information in relation to the COVID 19 pandemic. 

The Bathing Waters in Ireland 2020 report, infographic and a map of the quality of Ireland’s Bathing water sites in 2020 are available on www.beaches.ie

Who is involved?

Quite simply, everyone in Ireland has a role to play. This can be from something as simple as making sure you don’t pollute your local stream, or a local community working together to establish a Rivers Trust to enhance the rivers and lakes in their area, to a Government Department or Agency helping a Minister implement a new policy to help protect and enhance all our water bodies.

This website has been developed and is maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency, and is a collaboration between the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Local Authority Waters Programme.

LAWCO

Local Authority Waters Programme

The Local Authority Waters Programme coordinates the efforts of local authorities and other public bodies in the implementation of the River Basin Management Plan, and supports local community and stakeholder involvement in managing our natural waters, for everyone’s benefit.

EPA

Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA is responsible for coordinating the monitoring, assessment and reporting on the status of our 4,829 water bodies, looking at trends and changes, determining which waterbodies are at risk and what could be causing this, and drafting environmental objectives and measures for each.

DECLG

Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage

The Department is responsible for making sure that the right policies, regulations and resources are in place to implement the Water Framework Directive, and developing a River Basin Management Plan and Programme of Measures that will be implemented after public consultation and sign off by the Minister.