Catchment News

Significant Pressures: Hydromorphology

Changes to the hydromorphology ranks as the second most significant pressure in surface water bodies. Activities that impact on the hydromorphological condition have been identified as significant pressures in just under one-third of all river waterbodies considered ‘At Risk’ of not achieving their environmental objective. This is based on the most recent characterisation assessment using data up to 2021.

What is hydromorphology?

The hydromorphology of a waterbody describes its physical characteristics in terms of the movement of water flows and levels (‘hydro’), and the structure and form of the bed, banks and riparian zones and how they function within the surrounding landscape (‘morphology’). Good hydromorphological conditions are required to create and maintain diverse aquatic habitat for invertebrates, fish and plants, which in turn support healthy aquatic ecosystems and good ecological status.

Hydromorphological condition is assessed in surface water bodies. Human activities that impact on the hydromorphological condition of waters, for example channelisation and straightening of rivers, installation of weirs or other instream barriers, culverting or otherwise installing hard engineering works, and removal of natural features such as sand and gravel banks and riparian vegetation, are known as hydromorphology pressures.

Impacts of hydromorphology pressures on water quality

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.