Water abstraction regulations

An abstraction is the removal or diversion of water from a river, lake, stream, spring, groundwater well, borehole or estuary, for any purpose.

By law, if you abstract 25 cubic (25,000 litres) of water or more per day, you must register this abstraction with the EPA. 25 cubic meters is equivalent to about 150 bathtubs of water. A farm with 200 dairy cows, or a housing estate with 42 households, would use around 25 cubic meters of water per day. A well supplying a single household typically abstracts less than one cubic meter of water per day.  These regulations are set out in the European Union (Water Policy) (Abstractions Registration) Regulations 2018 (S.I. No. 261 of 2018).

Do the regulations apply to me?

The regulations apply to anyone abstracting 25 cubic meters (25,000 litres) of water or more per day, for any purpose. These purposes would include, for example, agricultural activities such as dairy, beef, or horticultural; industrial activities such as EPA licensed facilities; commercial activities such as hotels; recreational activities such as golf courses or racecourses; as well as drinking water supply, aquaculture, hydropower, mining and quarrying activities.

Most people use their highest amounts of water in the summer, particularly if it is dry and there has not been much rain. Even if you only abstract 25 cubic meters of water or more on one day in a dry summer, you still need to register this abstraction.

If your abstraction is less than 25 cubic meters (25,000 litres) of water per day, you do not have to register your abstraction. If you have a mains water supply (that is if you get your water from Irish Water, a local authority or a group scheme), you do not need to register this water as an abstraction. 

How do I know if I use more than 25 cubic meters per day?

If you have a flow meter, you can use it to tell you how much water you use per day. If you do not measure how much water you use, you can estimate your water use with a tool created by the EPA, available here. Worked examples using the estimation tool are available here.

When do I need to register?

Existing abstractions should be registered immediately. New abstractions must be registered within one month of the start of the abstraction. If you reported your water abstraction to a public authority (such as your local authority or County Council) in the past, you must also register your water abstraction with the EPA.

What about temporary abstractions?

Temporary abstraction of 25 cubic meters (25,000 litres) of water or more per day must be registered, unless the abstraction is a one-off occurrence with a duration no more than 24 hours that is not going to be repeated at any regular or irregular interval. For all other temporary abstractions, a point of abstraction must be identified, and the maximum abstraction should be used when registering. When a one-off temporary abstraction ceases, it should be de-registered.

What if I am not the landowner?

Either the landowner or the person renting the land must register the abstraction. The law indicates that both the landowner and the water user are liable in relation to the abstraction, and therefore, at least one of those people must register the abstraction. 

What if I get someone to abstract water on my behalf? 

The person who requested the water abstraction must register the abstraction.

Who do I contact if I have a question?

If you are not sure if the regulations apply to you, contact the EPA by emailing edenabstractionsupport@epa.ie

How do I register?

Registration is free and can only be done online. Register your abstraction by following these steps:

  1. Sign up to the EPA's EDEN website and request access to the Water Abstractions Module. Guidance on this process is available on the EPA website.
  2. Submit your abstraction details in the Water Abstractions Module via the EDEN website. Guidance on this process is available on the EPA website.
  3. When your registration is complete, you will receive a confirmation email from the EPA.

What abstraction information do I need to provide?

  • The abstraction owner's name and address
  • Abstraction location details, such as the address and Eircode (if available)
  • Abstraction source details (is it from a river, lake, or spring?)
  • Abstraction purpose details, such as industrial, agricultural, or commercial.
  • The number of abstraction points.
  • You also need to provide details of the highest amount of water you would abstract from the abstraction in one day (called the maximum daily abstraction volume, measured in m3/d). Typically, the highest volume of water would be used on a dry summer's day. You can provide an estimated value if you do not have an exact figure.
  • The average amount of water you would use from the abstraction over the course of a year (called the annual abstraction volume, measured in cubic meters per year (m3/yr)). You can provide an estimated value if you do not have an exact figure.

What if I have more than one abstraction at my location?

If you are abstracting water from more than one location, and the water is used in the same abstraction regime, you should register all the abstractions together. For example, if a farmer takes water from multiple locations along a river to irrigate crops, or, where a factory is abstracting from several wells to supply their process water.

In the situation where there are two or more abstractions that are not connected, then these abstractions should be registered separately. For example, if there were abstractions at two different farms that are several kilometers apart, the abstraction at each farm would be registered separately.

Will my data be shared with anyone?

Personal information will not be shared. The EPA may share information on abstractions with other public authorities with responsibility for water management in Ireland, such as local authorities, government departments, and state bodies. This is laid out in Article 6 of the Regulations (S.I. 261 of 2018).

When should I update my registration?

If there are significant changes in the abstraction volumes, you are required to update the registration. Examples of significant changes are (a) if the abstraction volume was reduced to a volume below 25 cubic meters, then the abstraction must be de-registered, or (b) if there was an increase or decrease of 25 cubic meters per day or more in the abstraction, the abstraction volume should be updated. You should also update your registration if any of the information provided by you on the abstraction is incorrect.

What if I move or permanently stop abstracting water?

If you permanently stop abstracting water, or if you are no longer involved with the abstraction, it is the registrant’s responsibility to de-register the water abstraction.

How do I de-register an abstraction?

Contact the EPA at edenabstractionsupport@epa.ie and request the abstraction is de-registered. Please provide the registration code in the email.

How do I transfer ownership or responsibility for an abstraction?

Contact the EPA at edenabstractionsupport@epa.ie and request the abstraction is transferred. The new owner/person responsible may need to re-register the abstraction after the previous owner has de-registered it.

Why do abstractions have to be registered?

To manage and protect our waters

Water abstractions need to be registered so that our rivers, lakes, estuaries, and groundwaters can be managed and protected for everyone’s benefit. To assess if our water resources are being managed sustainably, it is important to know what volume of water is being abstracted and from which rivers, lakes, and groundwaters.

The water abstractions register is used, along with other information, to responsibly manage water resources. This involves making sure that river flows, lake, and groundwater levels can sustain aquatic environments, while also allowing the use of water for drinking water supply and other purposes such as agricultural, commercial, industrial, and recreational. Unsustainable abstractions can also be identified and managed.

It is required by law

By law, if the owner of an abstraction greater than 25 cubic meters per day does not tell the EPA about the abstraction, or knowingly provides false information to the EPA, if found guilty of an offence, on summary conviction, they are liable to a Class A fine. This is set out in the European Union (Water Policy) (Abstractions Registration) Regulations 2018 (S.I. No. 261 of 2018). The development of a register of water abstractions is a requirement of EU law, the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC).

Why is the registration volume set at 25 cubic meters or more per day?

This volume was set based on a technical assessment of the level of risk posed to water resources. It is considered that abstraction volumes below 25 cubic meters (25,000 litres) of water each day are unlikely to have a significant negative impact on the water environment. Therefore, abstractions below 25 cubic meters per day would not require consideration when assessing the cumulative impact of abstractions on rivers, lakes and groundwater levels.

Can I access the register?

The EPA does not publish a detailed public abstraction register as it may contain personal or commercially sensitive information or other information that could jeopardise the security of water supplies. However, the EPA may share information on abstractions, except for personal information, with persons or public bodies, so they can satisfactorily discharge their statutory functions. This is set out in Article 6 of the European Union (Water Policy) (Abstractions Registration) Regulations 2018 (S.I. No. 261 of 2018).

General public

Anyone can request a version of the abstractions register by contacting the EPA at edenabstractionsupport@epa.ie. The version of the abstractions register available to the general public does not contain any abstractions where the abstraction purpose has been identified as being for drinking water. This is in accordance with the protection of critical national infrastructure direction included under law, the EU Directive 2016/1148. Additionally, grid references are rounded to the nearest kilometre to protect the identity of individual households and businesses, who may also use the abstracted water for private domestic use.

Public authority

The EPA can share information on the water abstraction register with public bodies involved in water management. Information can be requested by contacting the EPA at edenabstractionsupport@epa.ie.

Is a registration equivalent to a licence?

Registration is not equivalent to a licence. Legislation relating to a licensing system for water abstractions is being developed by the Department for Housing, Local Government, and Heritage.