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Water Quality


This Department is responsible for policy and legislation in relation to water quality issues and, together with other relevant authorities, for the implementation of EU Directives including:

  • Bathing Waters (76/160/EEC),
  • Dangerous Substances (76/464/EEC),
  • Freshwater Fish (78/659/EEC),
  • Shellfish Waters (79/923/EEC),
  • Groundwaters (80/68/EEC),
  • Drinking Water (80/778/EEC),
  • Urban Waste Water Treatment (91/271/EEC)
  • Nitrates (91/676/EEC).
  • Framework for Community Action in the Field of Water Policy (2000/60/EC)
  • Management of Bathing Water Quality (2006/7/EC)


Legislative Controls


Statutory responsibility for water management and protection rests primarily with local authorities. The Water Pollution Acts, 1977 and 1990 and regulations made thereunder, including regulations giving effect to EU Directives, constitute the main national legislation in this regard.

The Water Pollution Acts enable local authorities to:

  • prosecute for water pollution offences;
  • attach appropriate pollution control conditions in the licensing of effluent discharges from industry, etc., made to waters;
  • issue notices ("section 12 notices") to farmers, etc., specifying measures to be taken within a prescribed period to prevent water pollution;
  • issue notices requiring a person to cease the pollution of waters and requiring the mitigation or remedying of any effects of the pollution in the manner and within the period specified in such notices;
  • seek court orders, including High Court injunctions, to prevent, terminate, mitigate or remedy pollution/its effects;
  • prepare water quality management plans for any waters in or adjoining their functional areas;


Regional Fisheries Boards

Regional Fisheries Boards, as part of their fisheries management function, are also in a position to take prosecutions for water pollution offences. However, the Boards do not have the range of powers, which is available to local authorities to prevent pollution.

Environmental Protection Agency


The Environmental Protection Agency (external link) is responsible for water pollution insofar as activities licensable by the Agency may be involved; these concern complex industrial activities, as well as large intensive pig and poultry production units - operations having a potential to cause significant pollution which are controlled under the Environmental Protection Agency Act, 1992.