Catchment News

Galway Waterways Foundation – celebrating, preserving & enhancing Galway’s rivers & canals

The Galway Waterways Foundation is working to celebrate, preserve and enhance Galway’s rivers and canals. Philip James tells us about this new organisation and it’s work.

Few people think of Galway as a canal city and even less as a city of islands. Yet before human intervention Galway was a city of seven rivers and seven islands. In fact, its original Gaelic name was Baile na Sruthán, City of Streams.

No other geographical feature has influenced the history and development of Galway more than its waterways. The original Stone Age and Celtic peoples settled in Galway because of the abundance of salmon, eels, and trout in the rivers. The Anglo-Normans established their outpost in Galway in the 13th century because of the defensive characteristics provided by water on three sides. The strength of the River Corrib was harnessed during the 16th through the 19th centuries by creating canals and channels to drive water wheels that powered 30 businesses from milling to distilling.

Gradually throughout the 20th and into the 21st centuries all of this rich history and the culture that developed alongside the rivers have been forgotten. Galway’s 13 kilometre, intricate system of rivers and canals are unloved, poorly managed, and under-developed. The reasons are a lack of public awareness, out-dated 19th century legislation, and a lack of political will to grasp the problems and the opportunities that the waterways represent.

A group of local activists formed the Galway Waterways Foundation in 2017 to raise awareness of the condition of Galway’s waterways, to engage citizens in the restoration of these important resources, to attract funding, and to lobby the politicians and the permanent staff in the Local Authority for attention and improvements. The ambition of the Foundation is to evolve into a fully-fledged Rivers Trust following the model of the successful River Trust model from the U.K.

Progress is slow but we have been greatly assisted by the LAWPRO organisation and in particular by Catherine Seale, our Community Water Officer for Galway and South Roscommon who helped us secure some financial support from LAWPRO; and by Mark Horton, All-Ireland Director for Rivers Trusts. We have also made a substantial submission to Galway’s 2020 European Capital of Culture team to make the restoration of our waterways a major component of the Capital of Culture programme.

Philip James, Galway Waterways Foundation

Learn more:

Check out for lots of information, photographs, and future plans.

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 4,829 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.


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.