Report Examining The Quality Of Irish Water Bodies

quality of irish water

Report Examining The Quality Of Irish Water Bodies

The quality of Irish water affects the whole country as poor water quality can threaten human, animal and plant health. With the next report coming in 2025, let’s reflect on what the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) last report told us about Ireland’s waterways. 


Nutrient Pollution Harming The Quality of Irish Water

First of all, the report tells us that there has been no real improvement in the quality of Irish water from 2019 to 2022. One of the main factors worsening water quality is the presence of high nutrient levels – like nitrogen and phosphorus. These nutrients can enter water bodies through human activities (e.g. farming and wastewater discharge).

Nitrate (a type of nitrogen) and phosphorus are essential for plant growth. However, elevated levels of these nutrients in water bodies can lead to algae growth. Algae blooms can interfere with water flow, reduce oxygen levels, and threaten aquatic life.


Algal bloom

Example of an algal bloom in an Irish lake


A Closer Look at Ireland’s Water Bodies


56% of river water bodies have high or good biological conditions. This means 44% of rivers were deemed to be in moderate, poor or bad condition. Nitrogen levels increased from 2021 to 2022, with 40% of rivers showing unsatisfactory nitrate concentrations. Phosphate levels also need attention, with 28% of sites exhibiting unsatisfactory concentrations.


55% of lakes monitored are of high or good biological quality. The remaining 45% are of moderate or worse quality. Phosphorous levels are particularly concerning. Concentrations are higher than the recommended thresholds in 36% of lakes.   


As a positive, 91% of groundwater sites reported satisfactory conditions between 2019-2022. However, nitrogen levels increased from 2021 to 2022. 20% of groundwater monitoring sites were considered to have ‘high nitrate concentrations.’

Transitional and Coastal Waters

97% of estuarine and coastal waters exhibit satisfactory conditions. However, nitrogen concentrations are too high in 20% of these water bodies. This is worrying because these waters are particularly vulnerable to nitrogen. Estuaries with nitrogen exceedances include:

Glashaboy Estuary (Cork), Wexford Harbour, Castletown Estuary (Louth), Upper Barrow Estuary (Kilkenny), and Corock Estuary (Wexford).


Conclusion For The Quality Of Irish Water

The EPA report highlights concerns about the quality of Irish water bodies. Excessive nutrient levels need to be addressed, as not doing so can put our aquatic environments at risk. Hopefully, the next report in 2025 will show improvements.

An important step in improving water quality is regular water monitoring. Water monitoring can identify where nutrient levels are too high so that this can be fixed quickly. Southern Scientific Services monitors nutrient levels in water and can reduce the risks of exposure. Our efforts help achieve environmental sustainability, fostering healthier ecosystems and human well-being.


Contact our team of experts today to discuss how you can help improve the quality of Irish water!



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