Waters of LIFE project (Euro20m across six catchments)

The total budget under this LIFE Integrated project is €20,369,805 of which €9,500,000 has been committed by the European Union


Lee_SC_060 Sub Catchment (Shournagh)

The sub catchment has an area of approximately 130km2.  Three of the five sub basins which make up the sub catchment have a high status objective, with the other two inputting into these and so potentially impacting on their status.

None of the three high status objective water bodies in this sub catchment are currently meeting their objective: one has fallen to good status and two to moderate status in the last monitoring cycle.  All three are considered to be at risk of not meeting their objectives under the River Basin Management Plan.

The significant pressures which have been identified on these water bodies are: agriculture, hydromorphology, urban waste water, domestic waste water and urban runoff.

Soils in this catchment are free draining, which is somewhat unusual in the context of high status objective rivers.  The pollution impact potential (PIP) maps produced by the EPA show very high PIP for nitrate and very low PIP for phosphorus.

Blackwater_SC_060 Sub Catchment (Awbeg)

This is the sub catchment of a river called the Awbeg (but not the one that flows through Buttevant) which rises to the South of Liscarroll in Co. Cork and flows Southwards to join the main channel of the Blackwater East of Banteer also in Co. Cork.

The catchment has an area of approx. 80km².  Both the water bodies that make up the demonstration catchment have a high status objective. However, one has fallen to good status for the last two monitoring cycles, the other is not monitored, but has recently been assigned a predicted status of high by the EPA.

The geology in the area is quite mixed consisting of sandstone, mudstone and karst areas. Large areas have locally and regionally important aquifers.  Soil drainage is also mixed with both well and poorly draining areas and generally acid mineral soils. Diffuse pollution pathways are similarly mixed with surface runoff in poorly draining areas, shallow to deep subsurface flow in areas of well draining soils depending on the fracturing of bedrock or presence of karst and potential for direct inputs via karst features.

The significant pressures in this area are agriculture and hydromorphology. The catchment has a mix of areas which are considered high pollution impact for both phosphorus and nitrate.

Suck_SC_020 Catchment (The Island River)

The sub catchment has an area of approximately 145km2. Of the seven water bodies in this sub catchment, only one has a high status objective. However, five of the remaining are upstream of this waterbody and therefore activities in these sub basins have the potential to impact on it.  The high status objective waterbody is currently failing to meet its objective and has fallen to good status in the last two monitoring cycles.  It is considered to be at risk of failing to meet the high status objective which has been set for it in the River Basin Management Plan for Ireland.

The significant pressure on the high status objective water body is reported as urban waste water, but agriculture and hydromorphology are significant pressures in some of the upstream waterbodies.

There are areas of high pollution impact for phosphorus in the sub catchment along with a high proportion of peat soils.

Graney_SC_010 Sub Catchment

Of the eight water bodies in the Graney_010 sub catchment only three have a high status objective and only one is currently meeting its objective. The other two have fallen to good status and are considered to be failing to meet their objective under the River Basin Management Plan.

Blanket peat mainly overlies the sedimentary geology in this catchment. It is these peatlands that help regulate climate, control and purify water flows as well as supporting terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity. However, protection and in some instances, restoration is required to maintain the quality of these services.

The significant pressures in the catchment are forestry and agriculture. This catchment was chosen in consultation with Coillte and the Forest Service as there is likely to be significant forestry activity in the area during the life of the project.  This will allow appropriate management strategies for high status areas to be developed.

Avonmore_SC_010 sub catchment

The sub catchment has an area of 141km2 and is made up of six water bodies.  It captures all the streams, rivers and lakes that form headwaters to the Avonmore River. It starts in northeast parts of the Wicklow Mountains with Cloghoge and Inchavore Rivers that flow through Lough Tay and Lough Dan to form the Avonmore River. The river then flows south through Annamoe village down to Laragh village, where it meets Glenmacnass River that also rose in the Wicklow Mountains.

Two of the water bodies that make up the sub catchment are are Blue Dot rivers: Avonmore_010 and Avonmore_020, and have a high status objective. Both have fallen to good status and are considered to be at risk of not meeting their objective under the River Basin Management Plan.  Historically these rivers have been at high ecological status which means they have the potential to achieve and maintain high conditions. With the change down to good ecological status we know that these rivers are at stress and need action for the restoration. However, it should also be noted that a third waterbody in the sub catchment has improved to high status and has been high during two monitoring cycles.

The significant pressures in the catchment are forestry and agriculture. This catchment was chosen in consultation with Coillte and the Forest Service as there is likely to be significant forestry activity in the area during the life of the project and will allow appropriate management strategies for high status areas to be developed.

Note: the Sheen is flagged by the project not at risk, and is included as a control

Sheen_SC_010 Sub Catchment

This sub catchment has an area of 100.5 km2.  There are four waterbodies that make up the Sheen_SC_010 sub catchment, three of which have been given a high-status objective under the Water Framework Directive. It is important that high status is maintained and that there is no decline in water quality or status.  The majority of the sub catchment is at high status and is considered to be not at risk of failing to meet its River Basin Management Plan objective.

The soil type across most of the sub catchment is poorly draining peat and mineral soils, overlying relatively poorly productive bedrock. Better draining soils can be found on the lower slopes and lower lying areas in the river valleys of the Sheen River and its tributaries.

As part of the Waters of LIFE Project, the Sheen River sub catchment has been chosen as a ‘control’ catchment and will be used to explore the protect function.  The focus here will be on understanding how high status is currently being maintained and to identify any potential threats to water quality and status through field surveys and monitoring.  In this sub catchment, the project will: monitor water quality; monitor land use change and; raise awareness of the importance of high status water bodies.

SWAN: Submission to Public Consultation on the Draft Third Cycle River Basin Management Plan for Ireland 2022-2027

March 2022

Sustainable Water Network (SWAN)

Selected recommendations:

Actions must be specific, measurable and time-bound, with the responsible body assigned and accountable.

Nature-based, catchment-scale mitigation and adaptation solutions should be ‘main-streamed’ and adequately resourced

Establish an appropriately resourced central, WFD/RBMP project management secretariat/unit which is responsible for oversight, monitoring and assessment of WFD implementation

Initiate the medium-term process of developing a consolidated Water Act, similar to the Climate Act, with budgets, timelines and sanctions in order to mainstream water protection in government policy alongside climate and biodiversity action and to fix the fragmented water governance system.

WFD implementation must be made transparent and participative, and must be brought into compliance with the Aarhus Convention. The make-up and work of WPAC, NCMC, Regional Committees, etc., must be readily accessible, including where, and on what basis, water management decisions (including about trade-offs) are being made.

Clear mechanisms for better integrating stakeholder groups into governance and decision-making and this should be facilitated by an expanded team of a minimum of 46 Community Water Officers at catchment level.

Introduce WFD-specific risk assessments for all intensive farms, including derogation farms, through a permitting/licensing system similar to pigs and poultry.

Intensification, in particular to derogation stocking rates, should only be permitted if it can be demonstrated that it won’t impact on the WFD objectives for associated water bodies.

RBMP must provide for the monitoring and strict limiting of total catchment imported N (fertiliser and feed) in catchments already saturated, based on EPA analysis

For existing farms deemed to be a risk, regulatory, voluntary and combined measures should be implemented to reverse pollution impacts, including through herd reductions, with compensatory measures put in place to support this, where necessary

Independent review of the final CAP to assess its strengths and weaknesses to meet the WFD objectives

WFD-specific assessment in advance of developments potentially impacting waterbodies, e.g., dredging, drainage and flood protection

Prohibition on wetland drainage and commitment to a national river and wetland restoration programme

Review of the impacts of arterial drainage; and a commitment to review and amend the Arterial Drainage Act 1945 to remove the requirement to maintain drainage and to bring it into compliance with EU environmental law

All forestry planting and felling licences must include a WFD-specific assessment

Introduce a prohibition on afforestation on peat soils in acid sensitive headwater catchments, as recommended by the Hydrofor research project.

Irish Water Investment plan must include necessary work to halt sewage pollution from all wastewater treatment plants that have been identified as the main pollution source for 208 waterbodies.

Identify the pressures specific to coastal waterbodies and includes targeted measures to address them

Review of all aquaculture licences for compliance with the WFD and include a WFD-specific assessment in all new licence applications to ensure that the proposed/existing farms do not compromise the meeting of WFD objectives

Independent legal review of NPWS guidance on the licensing of aquaculture activities within Natura 2000 sites

Emergency response plans to save the 20 remaining pristine waterbodies.

Update and legally publish the sub-basin plans for the critically endangered freshwater pearl mussel.

Include measures for all waterbodies at risk from abstraction

EPA System for Tracking KPIs for the River Basin Management Plan

Request under the AIE Regulations for an electronic copy of the following documentation outlining the mechanism to track KPIs for the RBMP

On pg 34 of the report entitled “REVIEW OF THE LOCAL AUTHORITY WATERS PROGRAMME” the author Dr Matt Crowe notes:

In 2019, the EPA commenced developing a system for tracking the main KPIs for the River Basin Management plan and this would have included a mechanism for tracking progress with the two PAA targets mentioned above so it is possible that a mechanism and information exists within the overall State system but it does not appear to be publicly accessible.

Dr Crowe’s report was published in Jan 2021

A key commitment in the Programme for Government, is launching a new strengthened River Basin Management Plan to help Ireland protect, improve and sustainably manage our water environment to 2027.

A public mechanism to track KPIs underpins the RBMP

Under the current RBMP there are no public KPIs for LAWPRO, ASSAP, the related regional/national committees, the water related roles within local authorities, or the implementation bodies

AIE (25/3/22)

National Coordination and Management Committee

The NCMC. This committee provides the necessary interface between science, policy and programme delivery.

It agrees and oversees the overall work programmes and reports to the WPAC on progress.

The NCMC is tasked with addressing potential obstacles to implementation and advising the WPAC on future policy needs.

The NCMC is chaired by the DHLGH and comprises representatives of the DHLGH and the EPA, and the chairs of the regional management committees.

AIE 16/3/22 Minutes/agenda/reports

Sharing Lessons Learned from Water Governance

Clean, healthy water is essential for our economy, our aquatic wildlife and our health and wellbeing. However, as noted in the draft third-cycle River Basin Management Plan (Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, 2021), there are mounting environmental pressures on Ireland’s waters with the situation described as ‘’urgent’’.

The objective of this research was to review changes in structures and processes made under the second-cycle River Basin Management Plan, 2018–2021, to inform thinking regarding the third-cycle River Basin Management Plan, 2022–2027.

Project Highlights

Watch the project highlights

Identifying Pressures

Clean, healthy water is essential for our economy, our aquatic wildlife and our health and wellbeing. However, as noted in the foreword to the draft third-cycle River Basin Management Plan (Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, 2021), there are mounting environmental pressures on Ireland’s waters with the situation described as ‘’urgent’’.

A complex array of stakeholders are involved in water quality. Like many other environmental challenges, water is often described as a “wicked problem”, with “wicked” denoting resistance to resolution. It is a problem for which there is no single solution and no determinable stopping point.

Informing Policy

The objective of the research carried out by the Institute of Public Administration, as part of a 2-year research programme funded by the Environmental Protection Agency, was to review changes in structures and processes made under the second-cycle River Basin Management Plan, 2018–2021, to inform thinking regarding the third-cycle River Basin Management Plan, 2022–2027. Measures on implementation and governance, which are included in Section 5 of the draft third-cycle Plan, published in September 2021, are informed by findings of the research programme. Draft governance measures proposed for the third-cycle River Basin Management Plan encompass actions with respect to the roles and responsibilities of the various implementing bodies, an enhanced programme of monitoring and reporting of progress, a greater emphasis on compliance within the full mix of regulatory approaches, a capacity-building programme to ensure the transfer of learning and knowledge, and the further activation, development and support of local-level initiatives.

Developing Solutions

A central element of the research programme has been to review water governance using experimental governance as a framework. Experimental governance is a governance model developed by academics Chuck Sabel and Jonathan Zeitlin (2012) to support the governance of so-called wicked problems. These are challenging policy issues that require a cross-government response. The complexity of these issues means that, while the ultimate goal (e.g. clean water) is clear, there is no obvious solution or pathway to achieve this goal. Rather, the solution is arrived at incrementally through an iterative process that, crucially, involves frontline and local-level stakeholders. While the water governance structures established under the second-cycle River Basin Management Plan were not set up deliberately with an experimental governance approach in mind, many tenets of experimental governance are evident in the approach. The conclusions of the research programme highlight that better structures and processes do matter, but the capacity of the public servants involved is also vital in ensuring better governance.

Significant Water Management Issues: Public Consultation – Analysis of Submissions

Final Summary Report

Sept 2021

Part of the wider ongoing engagement with stakeholders and advisory groups on the production of River Basin Management Plans, each EU Member state is required to publish and make available for comments an interim overview of the significant water management issues (SWMI) identified in the river basin, at least two years before the beginning of the period to which the RBMP relates.

Of all of the priorities in the RBMP, tackling the pressures from Agriculture was seen to be the most relevant. This included reducing agricultural runoff into rivers and lakes and addressing the use of hazardous chemicals / pesticides on farms. Preventing further deterioration, investing in Urban Waste Water Treatment and the protection of Drinking Water Catchments were also commonly mentioned as being the most relevant priority.

River Basin Management Planning in the Republic of Ireland: Past, Present and the Future


The River Basin Management Plan (RBMP) is an essential component of the European Union Water Framework Directive that details an integrated approach required to protect, improve and sustainably manage water resources. RBMP were intended to be produced for the periods 2009–2015, 2016–2021 and 2022–2027. However, after two years of delays in the development processes, the Republic of Ireland produced its first RBMP in 2010.

The second RBMP cycle was also implemented in 2018 and is expected to run until the end of 2021 to give way to the third RBMP, whose consultation processes have been ongoing since December 2019. This paper contributes to the forthcoming RBMP by assessing stakeholders’ perspectives on the second RBMP through a desk-based review and by conducting interviews with nine institutions (14 interviewees).

The qualitatively analysed interviews reveal a broad spectrum of actors associated with water management and governance in the Republic of Ireland through a three-tier governance structure that has been delivered (with amendment) through the first two RBMPs.

Organisations such as the An Fóram Uisce|The Water Forum, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Local Authority Waters, and the Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advisory Programme have responsibilities designated in the RBMPs to deliver improved water quality, integrated catchment management, community engagement and awareness-raising. Trust has also been building up among these organisations and other agencies in the water sector.

Despite these responsibilities and progress made, the interviews identified communication lapses, ineffective collaboration and coordination among stakeholders and late implementation to be hampering the successful delivery of the second RBMP, in addition to significant pressures acting on water bodies from agricultural activities and urban wastewater treatment.

Towards the third RBMP, the paper concludes that optimised water sector finance, enhanced and well-resourced communications, and improved stakeholder collaboration are needed to foster effective and efficient water services delivery and quality. More so, given the cross-cutting impact of the Sustainable Development Goals on water resources and the interconnected relations among the goals, the paper further recommends the integration of the SDGs in the various plans of actions and a co-benefits approach to derive the triple benefits from biodiversity, climate change initiatives and water quality measures.

ESRI Joint Research Programme on Water

This programme undertakes research on behavioural and attitudinal change in respect of Ireland’s water resources. 

There are two overarching research questions: are policy measures implemented under the River Basin Management Plan intended to change behaviours successful (i.e., do behaviours change) and are the changes in behaviour having a non-negligible impact on the primary objective, in this case improving water quality? 

The research is being undertaken in collaboration with Ireland’s Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.


Knowledge and awareness of water quality protection issues within Local Authorities

An evaluation of public initiatives to change behaviours that affect water quality

Draft List of Proposed Measures in the Draft River Basin Management Plan for Ireland (2022 – 2027)

Appendix 2 is the important part of the draft plan.

It includes full list of the proposed measures

Implementation / Governance

  1. In cooperation with our northern colleagues, DHLGH will prepare a “shared waters” document that will outline the water bodies that flow into or through both jurisdictions and the work to be undertaken to ensure they meet their environmental objectives as reported in the River Basin Management Plans for Ireland and Northern Ireland.
  2. LAWPRO, in consultation with stakeholders, to produces templates for the catchment management plans that will be put in place for each of the 46 hydrometric catchments.
  3. Carry out a review of Local Authority Resources to put in place appropriate resources to support individual local authorities in fulfilling their role in water quality protection and restoration.
  4. The Department along with the governance groups (WPAC, NCMC and NTIG) will continually review the progress in the implementation of the programmes of measures and the distance to the 2027 target.
  5. Explore the feasibility of establishing a high level interdepartmental group to develop a comprehensive financing strategy to support the implementation of measures to deliver on the ambitious Water, Climate and Biodiversity objectives committed to in the Programme for Government.
  6. Irish Water to review and update their Water Services Strategic Plan that covers a 25 year period of water services management.
  7. The Department, together with the Department of Rural and Community Development, will develop and publish in 2024 a Rural Water Services Strategic Plan for the period 2025 to 2050.
  8. Irish Water and relevant stakeholders will work together to implement mitigation measures for abstractions determined to be significant pressures through the abstraction licensing process.
  9. The need for exemptions will be reviewed as the abstraction licensing process is rolled out.
  10. A multiagency group under the NTIG to continue a forum to co-ordinate efforts for implementation of Nature-based Catchment Management.
  11. Strengthening water protection provisions where necessary in relevant sectoral policies. These include; water services policy, spatial planning policy, agricultural policy and aquaculture policy.
  12. Identifying and embedding measures that will deliver multiple policy objectives (e.g. water, biodiversity and climate adaptation/ mitigation) into sectoral policies.
  13. Measures to be put in place to ensure the additional evidence required to determine if waterbodies are ‘At Risk’ can be obtained.
  14. Undertake a techincal Review and public Consultation on the designation of Heavily Modified Water Bodies.
  15. Progress further studies under the ESRI Joint Research Programme on Water.
  16. Review to be undertaken of the Local Authority Waters Programme and Wider Local Authority Structures to inform their evolution and identify the appropriate level of resources and involvement required from the sector to meet WFD objectives.
  17. DHLGH to review the outcomes of the IPA Governance Research programme on Ireland’s water governance arrangements and implement their recommendations were appropriate.
  18. Carry out an assessment of the Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advisory Programme (ASSAP) to review, examine, evaluate, comment and report on the rationale, efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability of ASSAP to date, along with recommendations for the future and its role and objectives under the third-cycle plan
  19. Working Group to be established under the National Technical Implementation Group to examine the implementation of current legislation governing activities which pose a risk to waters and to identify opportunities to improve compliance with it.
  20. DHLGH to provide clarification on the roles and responsibilities of the various implementation bodies, shifting emphasis from the sharing of information and the provision of updates to a more focused provision of high-level policy direction, monitoring implementation of the Plan, and project management.
  21. An enhanced programme of formal and scheduled monitoring and reporting of progress in respect of the implementation of the RBMP will be put in place.
  22. Provide a continued emphasis on the full range of the regulatory mix, from awareness and education, through to norms and enforcement, with a review undertaken to ensure there is an appropriate balance in the third cycle to ensure a greater emphasis on compliance assurance activity.
  23. Specific capacity building programmes of work to be put in place to encourage the transfer of learning and knowledge.
  24. Ensure further activation, development and support of local level initiatives (rivers trusts, catchment partnerships).
  25. Review the outcomes of the IPA/EPA Governance Research Programme.

Climate Change

  1. To ensure that the actions selected are effective, sustainable and cost efficient under changing conditions, a “climate check” will be required for all measures carried out under this plan.
  2. Update the Climate Adaptation Plan for the Water Quality and Water Infrastructure Sectors
  3. Examine opportunities in the monitoring programme to improve our understanding of climate change trends
  4. Support additional research and pilot projects in the area of climate change.

Areas for Action

  1. Restoration works to be advanced in 427 areas were environmental objectives are not being met.
  2. Protection measures to be progressed in 85 areas that are meeting their environmental objectives but require protection to ensure their water quality does not deteriorate.
  3. Catchment projects aimed at improving water quality to be advanced in 15 areas
  4. The Blue Dot Programme to draft a detailed work plan for waters with a High Status Objective, with a view to them forming part of the proposed local catchment plans.

Public Participation

  1. Evaluate the outcome of the Resilience Project for Rivers Trusts to inform future community engagement initiatives.
  2. Examine ways in which further support can be provided for the formation and capacity building of local forums to help identify and implement measures.
  3. Increase the level of funding under the Community Water Development Fund
  4. Explore opportunities for the development of a national citizen science programme.
  5. An Fóran Uisce to identify the optimum level of engagement with the implementation structures for the WFD as part of their strategic planning process.


  1. New GAP Regulations: The existing GAP Regulations are due to expire and be replaced at the end of 2021. The Nitrates Expert Group is working on the development of the new Nitrates Action Programme, which will be implemented by the regulations. It is expected that the new NAP will:
    •  Retain the existing controls on Nitrogen and Phosphorous from agriculture.
    •  Implement tighter controls on nitrogen and phosphorus inputs by:
    »   Establishing a chemical fertiliser register for farmers
    »   Providing for enhanced programmes of enforcement.
    »   Stipulating tighter controls on the use of chemical nitrogen fertilisers focussed on critical source areas
    »   Incorporate an industry-led initiative to reduce agricultural impacts on water quality.
  2. CAP Strategic Plan: New Rural Development Programme Regulations under the National CAP Strategic Plan will underpin the establishment of a new green architecture that aims to deliver and reward positive environmental outcomes, including water, biodiversity and climate mitigation and adaptation objectives.
  3. Teagasc will progress the development of a web-based Farm Sustainability Plan that will complement the existing Nutrient Management Planning online tool and support the wider Agricultural Knowledge and Information Systems (AKIS) programme.
  4. Consideration will be given to extending and expanding LAWPRO and ASSAP to support the implementation of the new CAP Strategic Plan. There will be an increased focus on sustainability across the entire farm advisory service (both Teagasc and private advisory services). This may include a role in the preparation of Farm Sustainability Plans.
  5. Local authorities and the EPA, through the NIECE network, will ensure that compliance assurance (including enforcement) actions for agricultural activities will be further enhanced and ensure that there is an increased targeting of inspections by local authorities based on water quality results, critical source areas and the EPA’s PIP Maps.


  1. DHLGH to develop a new Controlled Activities for the Protection of Waters regime to address pressures on the physical condition of waters.
  2. DHLGH to establish a restoration programme to mitigate the negative impact of past construction in or near water bodies.
  3. A pilot project will be undertaken for the Annacotty weir in County Limerick to assist with the design and implementation of the national restoration programme.
  4. DHLGH to oversee the implementation of the roadmap of actions to improve fish migration in the lower Shannon at the Hydroelectric scheme located around Parteen and Ardnacrusha.


  1. Continue to seek improvements to the licence applications process for key forestry activities
  2. Increase the area of forests with appropriate water setbacks through the ongoing restructuring of existing forest stands at clearfell / reforestation stage to incorporate appropriate water setbacks
  3. Ensure the application of water setbacks  and other water-based protection during the creation of new forests, principally under the Afforestation Grant and Premium Scheme.
  4. Manage the application of support measures that have a clear application in relation to the protection of water, including: the Continuous Cover Forestry Scheme; the native woodland and agro-forestry options under the Afforestation Scheme, and the Native Woodland Conservation Scheme.
  5. Encourage uptake of the recently-revised Woodland Creation on Public Lands Scheme to deliver woodland-based solutions for the protection of drinking water sources and water in general.
  6. Roll-out the Woodland for Water Scheme which is focused on strategically realising native woodland in areas where such features would have a marked impact in relation the protection of water.
  7. Continue to address all forestry-related water incidents, as identified by DAFM Inspectors or reported to DAFM by forestors, water agencies, NGOs and members of the public.
  8. Further engagement between DAFM and other parties on forestry-related issues, both within the existing WFD structures and forums, and bilaterally (e.g. with Inland Fisheries Ireland).
  9. Deliver further training of Registered Foresters and Consultant Ecologists and of Department Forestry Inspectors and Ecologists, in relation to the design, assessment and implementation of forestry projects from the perspective of the protection environment, including water.

Urban Waste Water

  1. Continue investment in waste water infrastructure with Irish Water investing in 83 wastewater treatment plants and 10 collection networks at an estimated cost of €1.022bn, over the period 2020-2024.
  2. DHLGH to ensure ongoing engagement with Irish Water on the requirements for the next investment period (2025-2029).
  3. EPA to carry out a review of Waste Water Discharge Licences
  4. Deliver a multi-annual investment programme to provide waste water infrastructure for unsewered villages
  5. Irish Water’s River Basin Management Plan – Enhanced Ambition Programme to advance priority wastewater treatment plant projects whose discharges have been identified as being significant pressures on water bodies and impacting on WFD objectives.
  6. Complete negotiations and transposition into Irish law of the recast Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive
  7. Ensure development of any new standards for Combined Storm Overflows emerging from an update to the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive.
  8. Continue to develop and update the Gap Analysis as a tool to deliver environmental benefits for infrastructural planning.
  9. Update the Nutrient Sensitive Areas designations under the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive.

Urban Runoff Pressures

  1. Develop recommendations for an implementation strategy for nature based Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems on a national scale.
  2. Provide interim guidance documentation to the Local and Planning Authorities on measures to be implemented to support the delivery of a greater focus on nature based solutions in advance of a national implementation strategy.
  3. The National Bathing Water Expert Group to undertake a project to determine the most suitable approach to protecting bathers’ health outside of the current bathing season in Dublin Bay.
  4. DHLGH to amend the existing Bathing Water Regulations (S.I. No. 79 of 2008) to provide discretion to local authorities on determining the bathing season for individual bathing waters.
  5. Establish a programme for the modelling and monitoring of rainwater run-off and overflows.
  6. Oversee the preparation of integrated urban drainage management plans.

Domestic Waste Water Discharges

  1. In line with the programme for government commitment to ‘continue to help fund upgrades to domestic waste water treatment systems, DHLGH will continue to monitor the uptake of the new grant schemes to ensure adequate numbers of people are availing of this measure. A research project will be initiated under the ESRI Research Programme on behaviours and attitudes to assess the level of uptake, impediments to uptake and to make recommendations for improving uptake.
  2. A review of the National Inspection Plan (NIP) 2018-2021 to be completed, with the outcome informing the next NIP for the period 2022-2027. An objective of these plans is to prioritise inspections to areas of greatest environmental and public health risk and secure upgrading works where required.
  3. DHLGH to consider the outcomes of the research project into the application of zero discharge nature based solutions and their applicability or not within Ireland’s climatic conditions.
  4. Review the outcomes of the pilot projects under the first multi-annual Developer- Provided Water Services Infrastructure Resolution Programme to inform future policy considerations on resolving sub- standard developer provided infrastructure with sustainable solutions.

Unknown Pressures

  1. The Local Authority Waters Programme will conduct assessments of water bodies with unknown pressures in priority areas for action to identify the significant pressures in these areas with a high level of confidence.
  2. Each local authority will conduct assessments of water bodies with unknown pressures (those not within priority areas for action) to identify the significant pressures in these areas with a high level of confidence.
  3. The Local Authority Environmental Services National Training Group (LAESNTG) will provide a training programme for catchment assessment and Integrated Catchment Management for the staff of local authorities and all implementing bodies.

Other Pressures

  1. Relevant national authorities to ensure full implementation of the existing measures.


  1. Measures set out in the National Peatlands Strategy be updated into a new Implementation Plan by NPWS
  2. NPWS to continue driving the implementation of the various programmes to restore the raised bog SAC and NHA network
  3. Appropriate bodies to implement the actions arising from the CANN and CABB Interreg programmes.
  4. DHLGH to oversee the coordination of the Wild Atlantic Nature LIFE Integrated Project (IP), bringing together the experience and knowledge of the associated partners.
  5. Bord na Móna to oversee the “Peatlands and People” LIFE Integrated Project.
  6. NPWS and Geological Survey Ireland to fund an investigation into the causes of blanket bog landslides that occurred across Ireland in 2020, and the vulnerability of other at-risk areas to future failures.
  7. DAFM to oversee the implementation of sustainable management practises developed through the Blackstairs Mountains, Wicklow Mountains and MacGillycuddy Reeks Mountains EIP projects.
  8. NPWS to explore peatland financing options to escalate restoration efforts including public private partnerships, community trusts, offsetting etc.

Industry, Mines & Quarries

  1. DHLGH will examine opportunities to further support businesses in taking on a water stewardship approach in their operations.
  2. The EPA will establish a Working Group under the National Technical Implementation Group to examine the implementation of current legislation governing activities which pose a risk to waters and to identify opportunities to improve compliance with it. The focus will be on protecting waterbodies from pressures and activities which are resulting in deterioration of water quality.

Drinking Water Source Protection

  1. Drinking Water Expert Group to make recommendations to the Minister regarding a new approach to drinking water source protection as part of the transposition of the recast Drinking Water Directive.

Invasive Alien Species

  1. NPWS to finalise legislation for the implementation of the EU IAS Regulation
  2. NPWS to prepare draft management plans and priority pathway action plans for priority invasive species.
  3. NPWS to advance negotiations on the recruitment of additional Biodiversity Officers
  4. An additional €500,000 to be provided for projects tackling Invasive Alien Species under the Local Authority Biodiversity Grant Scheme
  5. DHLGH to provide increased funding to the Community Water Fund to allow for additional projects, including invasive species control projects, to be undertaken at community level.

Hazardous Chemicals

  1. DHLGH will amend the EQS Regulations to take account of the assessment of River Basin Specific Pollutants (RBSPs) by the National Aquatic Environmental Chemistry Group (NAECG)
  2. DHLGH and EPA will input into the recently commenced EU work to revise the list of Priority Substances and Priority Hazardous Substances.
  3. Follow up scoping study on River Basin Specific Pollutants will be undertaken by the NAECG
  4. The NAECG will oversee a project to develop revised Environmental Quality Standards for the protection of designated shellfish waters.


  1. DAFM to seek to improve access to information through the launch of an online mapping viewer of licensed aquaculture sites in Ireland which will link to licence information already available online.

Land-use Planning

  1. Roll out of training on the new water and planning guidelines to practitioners.
  2. Progress amendments to the planning and development legislation to give effect to the new guidance.

Economic Analysis

  1. Prior to confirming the final programme of measures, the most cost effective combination of measures will be analysed.
  2. The economic regulator of water services (the CRU) will continue to assess and approve Irish Water’s costs and investment plans. This will include assessment of Irish Water’s investment decisions to ensure effectiveness, efficiency and economy in Irish Water’s expenditure. The CRU will continue to monitor and report on Irish Water’s delivery and performance in that context
  3. Irish Water to publish a National Water Resources Plan and to maintain national waste water capacity registers to ensure security of supply and sufficient capacity in drinking and waste water networks to allow for balanced regional development in line with the National Planning Framework
  4. Irish Water to continue to implement domestic excess use and non-domestic changing.
  5. Conduct a new economic assessment of the potential for a natural capital / freshwater ecosystem services approach to protecting water resources, including the need for new economic instruments and protection of freshwater and marine ecosystem services.
  6. Put in place a funding stream to upgrade and take in charge towns and villages without waste water networks.
  7. Finalise the review of rural water services and produce a rural water services strategic plan including a national rural water resources plan for the rural water sector.

Northern Ireland Water Framework Directive Statistics Report 2021

Statistics on the state of the water environment are published annually in the Northern Ireland Environmental Statistics Report. Water Framework Directive data is not updated each year due to the timescales of the monitoring.

The report below is an update on the status of all water body types: rivers, lakes, transitional & coastal and groundwater prior to the production of the third cycle River Basin Management Plan 2021 – 2027.