River Basin Management Plan 2018-2021

The Government has published the River Basin Management Plan for Ireland 2018-2021. The Plan sets out the actions that Ireland will take to improve water quality and achieve ‘good’ ecological status in water bodies (rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters) by 2027. Ireland is required to produce a river basin management plan under the Water Framework Directive (WFD).

Water quality in Ireland has deteriorated over the past two decades. The Plan provides a more coordinated framework for improving the quality of our waters — to protect public health, the environment, water amenities and to sustain water-intensive industries, including agri-food and tourism, particularly in rural Ireland.

What’s in the Plan?

The River Basin Management Plan outlines the new approach that Ireland will take to protect our waters over the period to 2021. It builds on lessons learned from the first planning cycle in a number of areas:

  • Stronger and more effective delivery structures have been put in place to build the foundations and momentum for long-term improvements to water quality
  • A new governance structure, which brings the policy, technical and implementation actors together with public and representative organisations. This will ensure the effective and coordinated delivery of measures.
  • The newly-established Local Authority Waters and Communities Office  will help people to get involved in improving water quality at a local level. An Fóram Uisce, also newly established, is a forum for stakeholders, community groups and sectoral representatives. It will analyse and raise awareness of water issues.

An enhanced evidence base has been developed to guide national policies and the targeting of local measures. Technical assessments of 4,829 water bodies have been carried out, examining their status (quality) and whether they are ‘at risk’ of not meeting status objectives in the future. Using this information, the Plan sets out national policies and regional prioritised measures.

Among the main actions that will be taken through the Plan are:

  • Improved waste water treatment: €1.7 billion in investment by Irish Water in over 250 waste water treatment projects between 2017 and 2021. This will help improve water quality and prevent deterioration of quality in targeted water bodies, including ‘protected areas’.  
  • Conservation and leakage reduction: Irish Water will implement important measures to make water use more sustainable and efficient, reducing leakage in our water network from 45% of all water produced down to 37% by 2021, based on 2017 figures.
  • Scientific assessments of water bodies and implementation of local measures by 43 new, specialist, local authority investigative assessment personnel: they will carry out scientific assessments of water bodies and lead on local implementation measures.
  • A new collaborative Sustainability and Advisory Support Programme: this partnership between the State and the dairy industry, consisting of 30 Sustainability Advisers, will promote best farming practice in 190 areas chosen for action, for up to 5,000 farmers.
  • Dairy Sustainability Initiative to help improve water quality: 18,000 dairy farmers to receive advice on sustainable farming practices in the 190 areas for action.
  • The development of water and planning guidance for local authorities: this will help local authorities to consider the risks to water quality during planning and development decision-making.
  • Extension of the Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems grant scheme: the scheme will assist with the costs of septic tank remediation in High Status water areas.
  • A Blue Dot Catchments Programme: the new programme will create a network of excellent river and lake areas. Agencies will work together to protect or restore excellent water quality in these water bodies.
  • A new Community Water Development Fund: this will enable and support community water initiatives.

The Plan has been published following three formal phases of public consultation, over 120 town hall meetings, over 2,000 submissions from interested parties, and meetings with representative bodies and stakeholders.

River Basin Management Plan 2018 - 2021

Want to play your part in improving local water quality?

Water quality is both a local and a national issue. A lot of improvements to water quality in your local rivers, lakes or coastal waters can happen with local knowledge and actions such as community clean-ups of a river. LAWCO is working with local groups and communities to help them play their part in protecting their waters.

To find out about how you can get involved in protecting water quality, contact LAWCO

Phone: +353 (0)761 065 262

Want to get more information on local water quality?

To get information about water quality in your local area or water quality activities throughout the country, visit the EPA's Catchments website

The website contains guidance, maps, data, resources, case studies and water-related news from around Ireland. You can also sign up for a quarterly Catchments Newsletter and for updates about relevant events in your county.