Introduced in 2000, the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) aims to protect all water resources, prevent further deterioration of all waters and to restore degraded surface and ground waters to good status by 2015 (or at the latest 2027). It was given legal effect in Ireland by the European Communities (Water Policy) Regulations 2003 (S.I. No. 722 of 2003). The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage has delegated the task of coordination and oversight of the WFD implementation in Ireland to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The WFD requires surface waters, such as rivers and lakes, to be classified into high, good, moderate, poor, or bad ecological status based on a standard, European-wide unified approach integrating a suite of biological, chemical, and morphological conditions. Assessment of quality is based on the extent of deviation from reference conditions i.e., biological, chemical, and morphological conditions associated with no or very low human pressure.
Since the last reporting period, there was a 3.7% drop in the number of high or good quality rivers sites (56.7%, 2010-2015; 52.6%, 2013-2018) with 47% of river sites now being of moderate to bad quality. Overall, there has been no change in the number of high or good quality lakes between the last reporting period (46.2%, 2013-2015; 46.3.8%, 2015-2018), but there is a 1.9% decline since the 2007-2009 period (48.2%).
More information on water quality in Ireland’s lakes and rivers can be found here:
More information on the Water Framework Directive and the EPA’s Monitoring and Assessment Programme can be found here:
The Water Framework Directive Status data can be downloaded from here:
More information on European Communities (Water Policy) Regulations 2003