Water quality of rivers, lakes and coastal areas continues to decline, says EPA

Water Quality Of Rivers, Lakes And Coastal Areas Continues To Decline, Says Epa
The agency said water quality in Ireland 'is not as good as it should be'. Photo: PA
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Water quality in Ireland has further declined and the country will fail to meet the EU and national goal of restoring all waters to good or better status by 2027, a new report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says.

While improvements in water quality are being made in some areas, the agency's latest assessment finds these are being offset by declines elsewhere, with areas in the south and southeast of most concern. This is due to their proximity to intensive agriculture, notably dairy farms, which is causing “run-off”.


The EPA’s Water Quality in Ireland Report (2016-2021), which assesses Ireland’s rivers, lakes, estuaries, coastal and groundwaters, said “urgent and targeted action is required to reduce nitrogen emissions from agriculture” in these areas.

It said water quality in Ireland “is not as good as it should be”, while overall ecological health of surface waters has declined across all water body types since the last assessment in 2013-2018.

Decline in water quality of rivers (1 per cent) and lakes (3 per cent) is relatively small, but the number of estuaries and coastal water bodies in satisfactory condition has decreased by almost 16 per cent and 10 per cent respectively.

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“These declines are mostly along the southeast and southern coasts where nitrogen emissions from agricultural activities are having a significant negative impact on water quality,” the report said.


Excess nitrogen causes algal blooms in estuaries which can damage ecosystems, while in drinking water it can pose a risk to human health.

Dr Eimear Cotter, director of the EPA’s office of evidence and assessment, said: “The scale of the declines in our estuaries and coastal waters is alarming. In recent years the EPA highlighted that nutrient levels in our rivers and groundwaters are too high and that trends were going in the wrong direction.

“We are now seeing the impact of these emissions on our estuaries and coastal waters. Areas such as Cork Harbour, Wexford Harbour and the Slaney, Suir and Nore estuaries have lost their good water quality status. This directly impacts the marine biodiversity and ecological value in these areas,” she said.

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