What is a catchment, and why should you care?

All of us live in catchments, whether it is the catchment area for a school or hospital, or a catchment area for a local stream, river, lake or coastal water.

For water, a catchment is simply defined as an area of land contributing to a river, lake or other waterbody.

We all want to have good quality schools and hospitals in our community, as this can help with enhancing education and health, and overall quality of life.

In the same way, living in a catchment that has healthy water can help a community have a better quality of life – the water can help make sure local people have high quality drinking water, support livelihoods like agriculture, recreational angling or water sports, and support local ecosystems, so plants, animals, fish and insects that depend on having healthy water can thrive and flourish.

How do we manage our catchments?

Experience around the world and in Ireland has shown that working together in local partnerships with local communities, Rivers Trusts, public bodies, and others on managing individual catchments and subcatchments of a suitable size is the best way to protect and improve our water, and making sure local community’s livelihoods and health are sustained and protected into the future.

To effectively manage our catchments, bottom-up and top-down collaboration is necessary.

Catchments.ie will highlight stories  from around Ireland showing how we can manage our rivers, lakes and coastal waters, and share the science and data that can help people make decisions, from a local Rivers Trust deciding what to do in their local area, all the way up to a government minister signing off on a River Basin Management Plan for the country.

Where is my local catchment?

With 46 catchments and 583 subcatchments across Ireland, your local one should be an area you are familiar with and know well.

You can find your catchment and subcatchment on the Maps page –allowing geolocation when prompted will zoom the map straight in on where you are now.

On the maps you can find information about the current status of your local rivers, lakes and beaches, information about how these valuable resources are being used, and the environmental pressures which may be causing problems

On the Data pages you can see detailed results of scientific tests, including long-term trends.

Get involved

Make your local catchment work for you

How to get involved

There are many ways for individuals or local communities to get involved – this can be anything from organising a Spring Clean of a riverbank once a year, getting your local Tidy Towns committee to look at how your river or lake can help your town become a nicer place to live, or even establishing a Rivers Trust or locally led agri-environment scheme to help draw down funding and establish a long term plan for your area.

You can sign up for our quarterly Catchments Newsletter using the form, and if you let us know what county you are in, we can contact you with relevant information about anything new that starts in your area.

You can also get in touch with the new Waters and Communities Office, who will be helping local communities get involved all across Ireland.


A guide to the Water Framework Directive

This piece of EU legislation has become a major driver for achieving sustainable management of water in Ireland and across the EU. Under this directive, all inland and coastal waters must reach ‘Good’ ecological status. ‘Good ecological status’ means achieving satisfactory quality water, maintaining ecosystems that can support all the species of plants, birds, fish and animals that live in these aquatic habitats.

Having one Framework for water quality for all of the 4,829 waterbodies in Ireland, and all the others across Europe, allows us to compare our results, and see what works to help us make sure all our surface and ground water achieves at least Good Status, and no deterioration occurs.

A key part of the Water Framework Directive is Article 14, which requires all member states to genuinely engage with the people who live, work and play in a catchment.

Ultimately, meeting the  objectives of the Water Framework Directive is not the aim – helping communities protect and improve a beautiful and diverse landscape with accessible healthy waterways that are productively used to support local health, livelihoods, habitats and rich wildlife is the goal. The Water Framework Directive is a powerful tool to help in achieving this.

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 waterbodies.

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 and Communities Office.


Local Authority Waters and Communities Office

The Waters and Communities Office has been established to carry out public consultation and engagement, and to coordinate the activities of all 31 local authorities in areas connected with the Water Framework Directive.


Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA is responsible for coordinating the monitoring, assessment and reporting on the status of our 4829 waterbodies, looking at trends and changes and determining which waterbodies are at risk and what could be causing this, and drafting environmental objectives and measures for each.


Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government

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.