What is a catchment, and why should you care?

We all 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 around a river, lake or other body of water.

Living in a catchment that has healthy water can help a community to have a better quality of life. A healthy water catchment provides high-quality drinking water and supports livelihoods such as agriculture, recreational angling and water sports. It also supports local ecosystems so plants, animals, fish and insects that depend on having healthy water can thrive and flourish.

How do we manage our catchments?

National and international experience shows that working together in partnership with local communities and public bodies is the best way to protect and improve our water.  It also helps to make sure local communities’ livelihoods and health are sustained and protected into the future.

To effectively manage our catchments, bottom-up and top-down collaboration is necessary. In other words, everyone involved – from government agencies to local communities and individuals – needs to share knowledge and information.

Catchments.ie will highlight stories from around Ireland showing how we can manage our rivers, lakes and coastal waters, and share the science and information needed to help people make decisions.

Where is my local catchment?

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

You can find your catchment and sub-catchment on the Maps page.

On the Maps page, you can find information about the current status of your local rivers, lakes and beaches. You will also get information about how these valuable resources are being used, and information about the environmental pressures on them.

On the Data pages, you can see detailed results of scientific tests, including long-term trends and chemistry downloads for every water body can subcatchment in Ireland. You can also download a Catchment Assessment for all 46 catchments and 583 subcatchments.

The Dashboards will give you information about water quality and the pressures on our catchments and sub-catchments.

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 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 Local Authorities Waters Programme who are helping  local communities get involved all across Ireland.


    A guide to the Water Framework Directive

    The EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) is an important piece of environmental legislation which aims to improve our water quality. It applies to rivers, lakes, groundwater, estuaries and coastal waters.

    The Water Framework Directive was agreed by all individual EU member states in 2000, and its first cycle ran from 2009 – 2015. The Directive runs in 6-year cycles, so the second cycle runs from 2016 – 2021.

    Having one framework for water quality for all 4,933 waterbodies in Ireland, and all those in Europe, allows us to compare our results. By doing this, we can see what works, which helps us to 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.


    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.