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Water Quality in Ireland

Water is a critical natural resource. Ensuring Ireland has water of good quality available across the country is essential from an economic and quality of life perspective. Our water is used for drinking, industry, energy generation and recreation. Water is also is home to a wide variety of plants and animals.

Increasingly Ireland has to look at the impact of human activities on water quality on a global and local scale. Our activities can have a positive or negative influence. Activities impacting water quality are agriculture, hydromorphology (physical changes to waters), urban and domestic waste water, forestry, peat extraction, industry and roads.

Climate Change has resulted in more frequent storms and heavier rainfall or droughts. These impact water quality, putting increased strain on supplies and on Ireland’s ability to maintain and improve water quality.


Source EPA Water Quality Report 2013-2018. To view this report please click here

Water Policy and Targets

In Ireland all water policy and management is guided by the Water Framework Directive. Under this directive Ireland has been set a target of achieving at least ‘good status’ for all waters in the country, along with no deterioration. Despite a lot of good work over the last 20-30 years we are falling short in achieving this target and water quality has declined in recent years.

Although overall water quality in Ireland compares favourably to the EU average, meeting objectives under the Water Framework Directive, whereby all waterbodies achieve good status by 2027, will be challenging.

The results from the latest Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Water Quality in Ireland 2013-2018 report are disappointing. The report highlights that 52.8% of surface waterbodies are at good or high status, down from the 55.4% recorded for the 2010-2015 period.

An encouraging result is the net improvement of 16.7% in water quality in water bodies that were prioritised areas for action and reflects the positive efforts of local authorities and other public bodies.

The key issue is eutrophication, driven by excess phosphorus in freshwaters and excess nitrogen in estuarine and marine waters. Changes to the physical habitat including excess sediment (hydro morphology) are the next biggest issue. Agriculture is the most significant pressure, followed by urban discharges, channel maintenance and other physical habitat changes, forestry, peat cutting and domestic waste water. Diffuse pollution is widespread and presents the greatest challenge.

The latest information on current water quality in Ireland can be found at the links below: