The four water categories river, lakes, groundwater, transitional and coastal waters come under the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), Directive 2000/60/EC. The objective of the WFD is to prevent any further deterioration in status of surface waters, groundwater and water dependent ecosystems and to restore polluted waterbodies to at least “good status” by 2015. The WFD monitoring programmes are an integral part of the new management strategy for water to meet this objective. 

Main water legislation

The Water Framework Directive, Directive 2000/60/EC, was adopted in 2000 as a single piece of legislation covering rivers, lakes, groundwater and transitional (estuarine) and coastal waters and includes heavily modified and artificial waterbodies. Its objectives are to prevent further deterioration of and to protect, enhance and restore the status of all bodies of water with the aim of achieving at least good status by 2015.

The Water Policy Regulations (S.I. No. 722 of 2003), Surface Waters Regulations (S.I. No. 272 of 2009) and Groundwater Regulations (S.I. No. 9 of 2010) govern the shape of the WFD characterisation, monitoring and status assessment programmes in terms of assigning responsibilities for the monitoring of different water categories, determining the quality elements and undertaking the characterisation and classification assessments.

The Surface Waters  Regulations institute a wide-ranging set of environmental standards for Irish surface waters. The Groundwater Regulations establish environmental objectives to be achieved in groundwater bodies and include groundwater quality standards and threshold values for the classification of groundwater and the protection of groundwater against pollution and deterioration in groundwater quality.

Some of the main Irish Legislation and European Union (EU) Directives relating to water are listed below:

Irish Legislation

European Communities (Water Policy) Regulations, 2003 (S.I. No. 722 of 2003)

European Communities (Drinking Water) (No. 2) Regulations, 2007 (S.I. No. 278 of 2007)

European Communities Environmental Objectives (Surface Waters) Regulations, 2009 (S.I. No. 272 of 2009)

European Communities Environmental Objectives (Groundwater) Regulations, 2010 (S.I. No. 9 of 2010)

European Communities (Good Agricultural Practice for Protection of Waters) Regulations, 2010 (S.I. No. 610 of 2010)

European Communities (Technical Specifications for the Chemical Analysis and Monitoring of Water Status) Regulations, 2011 (S.I. No. 489 of 2011)

EU Directives

Birds Directive (79/409/EEC)  

Drinking Water Directive (80/778/EEC) as amended by Directive (98/83/EC)

Major Accidents (Seveso) Directive (96/82/EC)

Environmental Impact Assessment Directive (85/337/EEC)

Sewage Sludge Directive (86/278/EEC)

Urban Waste-water Treatment Directive (91/271/EEC)

Plant Protection Products Directive (91/414/EEC)

Nitrates Directive (91/676/EEC)

Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC)

Integrated Pollution Prevention Control Directive (96/61/EC)

Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC)

Bathing Water Directive (2006/7/EC) (repeals 76/160/EEC)

Groundwater Directive (2006/118/EC)

Floods Directive (2007/56/EC)

Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2008/56/EC)

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