Catchment News

The Local Authority Waters Programme Catchment Assessment Team

Alan Walsh tells us how the new Local Authority Waters Programme Catchment Assessment Team will be working in Priority Areas for Action across the country.

Ireland’s River Basin Management Plan 2018 – 2021 was launched in April 2018, setting out measures to be implemented over the next four years, and a new approach for the protection and management of our rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters.

This new approach will involve closer collaboration between Local Authorities and state agencies. Underpinning this second cycle River Basin Management Plan (RBMP) is a strong evidence base resulting from the characterisation work undertaken by the EPA, Inland Fisheries Ireland and Local Authorities.

This new collaborative approach builds on statutory requirements for implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) in Ireland. Two years ago, the Waters and Communities Office was set up as a shared service to help our 31 Local Authorities with their responsibilities for regional coordination around WFD activities and public engagement in the development and implementation of River Basin Management Plans.

The Local Authority Waters Programme Catchment Assessment Team

To implement the River Basin Management Plan, a new team of 35 scientists with a wide range of technical expertise have been recruited under the Local Authority Waters Programme. These will be called the Catchment Assessment Team and they will assist Local Authorities with implementing the measures set out in the RBMP, and to support ongoing WFD activities.

The new Catchment Assessment Team is a sister organisation to the Waters & Communities Office, and both are part of the Local Authority Waters Programme Office which is led by Kilkenny and Tipperary County Councils.

The Catchment Assessment Team will work closely with our 31 Local Authorities, the Waters & Communities Office, the EPA, other WFD implementing bodies, and the 30 advisors in the new Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advice Programme (ASSAP).

There will be five regional Catchment Assessment Teams, with a Senior Catchment Scientist and 6 support staff in each region. These teams were hired and trained during Summer 2018. Five Senior Catchment Scientists are now in place;

  • Martina Smith in the Border Region, based in Monaghan;
  • Bernie White in the West Region, based in Galway;
  • Margaret Keegan in the Midlands East Region, based in Dublin;
  • Maeve Ryan in the South-West Region, based in Limerick; and
  • Ruth Hennessy in the South-East Region, based in Clonmel.

The five regional teams will be completing Local Catchment Assessments in each of the 190 Areas for Action (containing 726 water bodies) between 2018 and 2021. They will recommend measures to improve water quality in these areas, and they will collaborate with and support public bodies, stakeholders and pressure owners to implement these measures. Better water quality will bring multiple benefits for the community and their environment.

Catchment management networking in a river

Learning about catchment assessment the only way possible: with boots in the water

The Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advisory Programme

A key focus for the Catchment Assessment Team will be agriculture. Agriculture is the most significant pressure on ‘At Risk’ water bodies. The Catchment Assessment Team will work with another new collaborative initiative between state agencies and industry, the Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advisory Programme (ASSAP).

ASSAP will focus on knowledge transfer and collaboration, encouraging behavioural change, best practice and more sustainable farming practices. Up to 5,000 farmers will receive support and advice from 30 Sustainability Advisors, 20 based with Teagasc and 10 with Co-ops. This support will focus on issues within the 190 prioritised catchment Areas for Action. In addition, 18,000 dairy farmers will receive advice on sustainable farming practices under the Dairy Sustainability Initiative.

The River Basin Management Plan 2018-2021 aims to achieve general water-quality improvements in 190 Areas for Action, which contain 726 water bodies prioritised for this cycle. However, given the complexities involved and the known difficulty in achieving status improvements due to time lags in natural recovery, and the interaction between multiple environmental pressures on water bodies, it is conservatively estimated that the actions outlined will likely result in 152 water bodies improving in status by 2021, with further improvements being made thereafter.

Alan Walsh, Communications, Local Authority Waters Programme

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.