Hydromorphology is a relatively new discipline which is described in the Water Framework Directive. It refers to the physical character of the river and includes the flow of water in the river, the course the river takes or the form and shape of the river channel.
It stems from the term ‘fluvial geomorphology’, a subject that focuses on the processes of water and sediment movement and the features that these processes create in a river such as pools, riffles and glides. These processes and features create and maintain habitats for invertebrates, fish and plants.
Hydromorphology pressures are anything that impacts negatively on the form or flow of the a river, for example: weirs and dams which may impede fish passage; drainage works which straighten and deepen the channel and thereby damage important habitat features for aquatic species and soil or bank erosion which can cause siltation of the river bed.
Changes to the hydromorphological characteristics of surface waters is estimated to be a significant pressure in almost 29% of high status objective waterbodies that are At Risk of not meeting their environmental objectives. It is the most prevalent significant pressure within high surface objective water bodies.
Two of the catchments selected within the €20 million Waters of LIFE project deal with hydromorphology
River name: The Shournagh
Water Framework Directive Reference: Lee SC 060
Location: Co Cork (near Tower and Blarney)
Significant Pressures: Agriculture, Hydromorphology, domestic wastewater, urban runoff, OPW Area for Action
River name: The Awbeg
Water Framework Directive Reference: Blackwater SC 060
Location: Co. Cork (Near Kanturk)
Significant Pressures: Agriculture, Hydromorphology