Catchment News

Catchments Newsletter Issue 14 – Spring 2021

The latest issue of the Catchments Newsletter is now available to download.

You can read the editorial from this issue below.

As always, we’ll be adding the stories from the Newsletter to the website over the next few months.

In this issue:

Waters and Communities News: Stories from the Waterside; local community protect Lough Gill, County Kerry from invasive species; The Caha Project; NoreVision – become a river guardian; Inishowen Rivers Trust launch their Riverview newsletter; Camac Connections: the River Camac in Clondalkin published by Friends of the River Camac; Communities Caring for Water conference; Community Water Development Fund 2021.

Articles: EPA publishes Water Quality in 2019 – an indicators report; World Wetlands Day 2021; 2,200 acres of uplands gifted to An Tasice at Sleabh Beagh; Nature-based Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems; EPA publishes Ireland’s Environment – an integrated assessment 2020; EPA Research 36$: Learning from Group Water Schemes; DCU Water Institute Backdrop project – citizen science along the Liffey; Geological Survey of Ireland: regional assessment of groundwater resources

Spring 2021 editorial: Ireland’s Environment – an integrated assessment

Late last year, the EPA published Ireland’s Environment – an integrated assessment. This State of the Environment Report is published by the EPA every 4 years. This editorial includes extracts from Ireland’s Environment. You can read more about this report on page 29 of the Spring 2021 Catchments Newsletter.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required by statute to undertake and report – at four-year intervals – on an integrated assessment of Ireland’s natural environment. What do we mean by an ‘integrated assessment’? It means seeing the environment in its totality so that we can understand our impact, both positive and negative. In our human, ecological and physical systems everything is connected.

The environmental challenges that Ireland faces are giving rise to complex and systemic issues. They cut across different environmental topics, such as climate, air, soil, water, biodiversity, and waste, and across organisations and sectors, business, and all levels of society. They are taxing economically, sociologically, technically, and administratively.

Every dimension of how we live – our homes, our workplaces, how we move, eat, play, commune and create – has the potential to impact on, or be impacted by, our environment. As a nation we rely on our natural environment – our rivers, seas, air, and land – to accept, assimilate, cleanse, or store our public, industrial, and private effluents and wastes. Our natural environment provides such essential services, but its bearing capacity must be understood and regulated in environmental planning, consumption, and production processes.

Water – an assessment

Water is a hugely important national resource that provides a multitude of benefits to the people of Ireland. This resource needs to be protected to ensure that the benefits that currently arise can be enjoyed by future generations. Our waters need to be protected against a range of human activities that cause water pollution and affect the physical integrity of water bodies and habitats. These human activities, together with climate change, continue to threaten the quality and availability of water. Protecting our freshwater resources also protects the marine waters that our rivers flow into.

The aim of European Union (EU) and national water policy is to protect clean waters and to restore polluted waters. However, water quality in Ireland is now getting worse after a period of relative stability and improvement. Not only are we seeing a persistent decline in the highest quality waters, but we are also seeing an increase in the number of most polluted rivers. Many of Ireland’s protected water habitats also have unfavourable conservation status as a result of declining water quality (see Chapter 6 of Ireland’s Environment – an integrated assessment).

While there are many examples of local measures and projects that are working well to make a difference, overall, the evidence shows that at a national level measures have not been successful to date in addressing several environmental issues; the trends in indicators for water quality, biodiversity, greenhouse gases and air quality are all going in the wrong direction and Ireland is a long way from meeting the targets that have been set. Rescue plans are now needed for our remaining Blue Dot high-status water bodies to halt their decline. Only half of our monitored rivers and lakes are in a satisfactory condition. Estuaries now have the lowest water quality overall with only 38% of monitored waters in good condition. Detailed information on the condition of your local waters and the pressures impacting on them is available on

The outlook is mixed, and significant challenges remain. Progress is slow in addressing the two biggest pressures – improving urban wastewater treatment and eliminating untreated sewage discharges, and reducing nutrient loss from agriculture. It is also becoming apparent that drainage of lands and rivers, which give rise to increases in fine sediment in waters and changes to the physical habitat condition and function, is a more important factor than was previously recognised. A review of the measures and controls on these types of works is urgently needed.

On the positive side however, there are early signs that the targeted approach of working to address all the pressures together in the 190 Areas for Action identified in the 2nd cycle River Basin Management Plan for 2018-2021 is bearing fruit. Although the approach is still in its infancy, the available data suggest that water quality may be improving overall inside the Areas for Action, in contrast to the continuing net declines nationally.

River Basin Management Plan 2022-2027

Ireland’s third river basin management plan for the period 2022-27 is currently in development, led by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. The plan will build on the previous plan and will set out the programme of measures that needs to be implemented to achieve our water quality objectives. The draft plan will be published later this year, and there will be a 6-month public consultation on it which will be coordinated by the Local Authority Waters Programme. Details on how to take part in this consultation will be shared on

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.


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.


Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA is responsible for coordinating the monitoring, assessment and reporting on the status of our 4,842 water bodies, looking at trends and changes, determining which waterbodies are at risk and what could be causing this, and drafting environmental objectives for each.


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 to protect and restore our waters.