National Hydrometric Monitoring Programme 2018-2021
In 2018, the EPA published a National Hydrometric Monitoring Programme for 2018-2021 to coordinate the collection and analysis of information on the levels and flows of water in rivers and lakes in Ireland.
The programme will consist of a total of 559 flow estimation and lake level monitoring stations which will capture the flows draining 69% of the land area in the state. There are 503 stations measuring river flow, and 56 measuring lake levels. The EPA and local authorities will operate 264 of these stations, with the remaining stations operated by the OPW, ESB and Waterways Ireland.
This monitoring programme is required:
- to provide a trusted dataset to inform licencing and enforcement decisions. Inaccurate flow estimation would result in either environmental damage or unnecessary over-regulation;
- to provide the evidence base for environmental flow (e-flow) and future abstraction impact assessment. This will require a baseline dataset that is representative of regional variations across the country;
- to underpin implementation of the Water Framework Directive in Ireland. Characterisation and status assessment work in terms of loading volumes and critical source areas cannot be completed without locally accurate flow estimates;
- to monitor the national and local impact of climate change on the temporal variation of flows and levels in Irish rivers and lakes. Historically, there was an implied understanding in our approach to water resource management that past flows and levels would could be used to predict future flows and levels. However, best current estimates indicate that there may be significant changes in the flow regime of rivers and lakes in coming years, particularly in the south of the country. A representative network accurately measuring such changes is an absolute necessity to identify and quantify such changes. Without this information, the impacts of such changes cannot be effectively managed and mitigated;
- to provide an adequate long-term dataset to support integrated flood and drought management. Climate models predict increases in both flooding and drought in Ireland. A comprehensive hydrometric network geared towards capturing both high and low river flow and lake levels is necessary to plan for and actively manage such events;
- to assess the environmental carrying capacity of urban areas and in catchments generally. County development and local area plans require water resource information so that these are built on a sound evidence base in terms of estimating the level of development that a region can support in terms of water supply and waste water disposal.
The programme has been prepared through a consultative approach with national stakeholders involved in the collection of such data including the local authorities (through the CCMA), the OPW, the ESB, Waterways Ireland, the Marine Institute, Inland Fisheries Ireland, Irish Water and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. Other stakeholders who contributed to the formulation of the programme include Met Éireann, the Geological Survey of Ireland, and academics involved in hydrological research. The development of the programme included an international review of hydrometric operations in Scotland, Wales and New Zealand and incorporates learnings from these countries.
This network will facilitate the collection of accurate, nationally representative data which will support an evidence-based and efficient approach to the management of our shared water resources. The integrated nature of the programme is a good example of joined up public sector management and inter-agency collaboration. The programme will be synchronised with River Basin Management Plan cycles and will be reviewed in 6 year cycles from 2021 onward.
Read the National Hydrometric Programme 2018-2021 report: www.epa.ie/pubs/reports/water/flows/nationalhydrometricprogramme2018-2021/
Up-to-date flow and water level data can be accessed through