The EPA's Monitoring and Assessment Role

Fresh, clean water is vital for all life on earth. Clean, healthy water is essential for our economy, our aquatic wildlife and for our health and wellbeing. Ireland has some of the best water quality and cleanest beaches in Europe. Ireland’s climate means that there is usually enough water to meet the needs of its people and the surrounding environment. However, the EPA’s monitoring and assessment of water quality In Ireland indicates it is getting worse. Just over half of Ireland’s surface waters are in good condition.

The EPA monitor and assess the air quality in Ireland and our air quality currently is good, relative to other EU Member States, however local issues exist. Integrating air pollution controls, noise mitigation measures and climate action (for example, in transport management) can bring multiple benefits for the health and wellbeing of people and the environment in Ireland.

The EPA has a wide remit and is responsible for a range of tasks relating to the authorisation of activities that could have an impact on the environment or on human health. The EPA regulates and assesses major industrial, waste and wastewater operations in Ireland to ensure that they comply with environmental law and don’t endanger human health or harm the environment. We also regulate and assess the provision of drinking water to ensure that the water supplied is clean and compliant with environmental law.

The EPA carries out rigorous and continuous testing ensuring environmental radiation remains within internationally agreed and legal safety limits. This testing ensures the EPA are quickly made aware of changes in environmental radiation in Ireland and can provide you with health warnings and protection advice if necessary. 

The EPA’s assessment of emissions to the environment indicates that systemic change is required for Ireland to become the climate-neutral, climate-resilient society and economy that it aspires to be. We need to move to a less wasteful and circular economy and to the use of clean energy systems. The transition to a clean energy future for heating, electricity and transport is essential for the protection of human health, the climate and the environment.


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Learn more about Rivers!

  • Ireland has more than 73,000 km of river channels. If placed end-to-end, they could encircle the Earth almost twice. Three-quarters of these channels are very small streams that typically flow into larger rivers.
  • The longest and largest river in Ireland is the Shannon. It runs for more than 360 km from its source to the sea and discharges on average more than 200,000 litres of water per second into the Shannon estuary at Limerick, where it enters the sea. That is the same volume as five Olympic-sized swimming pools every minute!
  • Half of all the endangered freshwater pearl mussels in Europe live in Irish rivers. Riverbanks provide wildlife corridors through the countryside and give food and shelter for a wide range of animals and plants. They also serve as an important habitat for many wildflowers that support butterflies and bees.
  • Biological monitoring has been carried out in Irish rivers since 1971. The current national river monitoring programme covers more than 13,000 km of river channel.


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Waste under the topic of Monitoring and Assessment

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Air under the topic of Monitoring and Assessment

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Bathing waters

How water quality is monitored and assessed at our designated bathing waters to keep swimmers safe and healthy.

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Climate Change

Climate Change under the topic of Monitoring and Assessment

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Circular economy

Circular economy under the topic of Monitoring and Assessment

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Drinking water

Drinking water under the topic of Monitoring and Assessment

Drinking water topics areas

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Freshwater and Marine

The EPA Water Programme works with others to monitor and assess the health of our rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters under the Water Framework Directive.

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Noise under the topic of Monitoring and Assessment

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Radiation under the topic of Monitoring and Assessment

Latest Publications in Monitoring & Assessment

Water Quality Summary Report 2016-2021 Cover
Water Quality in Ireland 2016 – 2021

Summary Report

This report provides summary information on the status of our rivers, lakes, estuaries, coastal waters (known collectively as surface waters) and groundwaters. It is based on information collected over a 6-year period from 2016 to 2021 under Ireland’s national water quality monitoring programme from over 4,000 surface water bodies and 514 groundwater bodies.

Bathing Water Quality in Ireland 2020 cover
Bathing water quality in Ireland 2020

The 2020 EPA Bathing Water report sets out bathing water quality at Ireland's beaches during the summer 2020 bathing water season.

Guidance booklet for fire fighting foams thumbnail
The Changing Nature of Fire-Fighting Foams - Guidance Booklet

Understanding the risk posed by PFAS

Fires present risk to life and damage to property and the control of fires is typically achieved through the use of an extinguishing agent to remove heat or oxygen, or both, from the fire triangle: fuel, heat, oxygen. Water is the most commonly used agent, but other materials which “smother” the fire are also employed (e.g. inerting gases or the application of foam).

Hydrology Bulletin Cover April 2023
Hydrology summary bulletin - April 2023

Hydrology Summary Bulletin for April 2023 outlining the flows in rivers, rainfall, lake levels, turlough levels, groundwater levels and spring outflows of over 300 stations across Ireland.

State of Environment Report, Ireland's Environment, EPA
Ireland's environment - key messages booklet

An Integrated Assessment 2020

This summary booklet presents the following information from the report: key messages; chapter highlights; current assessment and outlook; actions for a cleaner greener environment.

Latest News

in: Freshwater and Marine
The majority of Ireland’s bathing waters have excellent or good water quality

Date released: May 11, 2023

The EPA has today published the Bathing Water Quality in Ireland report for 2022 which shows that water quality at the majority of Ireland’s bathing waters meets or exceeds the appropriate standards. 79% of bathing sites have 'Excellent’ water quality while 97% meet the minimum standard.

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

Date released: October 13, 2022

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has today published the Water Quality in Ireland Report 2016-2021 which provides the latest assessment of the quality of Ireland’s rivers, lakes, estuaries, coastal and groundwaters.

78% of Ireland’s bathing sites have excellent water quality

Date released: May 12, 2022

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has today published the Bathing Water in Ireland report for 2021, which shows that 78 per cent of bathing sites have excellent water quality, while 97 per cent meet the minimum standard.

FAQs on monitoring & assessment

in: Freshwater and Marine Freshwater and Marine

A collection of frequently asked questions about monitoring and assessment to assist you with your queries.

popular FAQs about freshwater & marine

  • Microplastics - do they have an impact on water quality?

    Microplastics are a newly identified contaminant in water sources, including drinking water sources, across the world. Microplastics are very tiny (<5 mm) pieces of plastic which can come from a variety of different materials.

    As microplastics are an emerging water quality issue, the impact of them on people’s health has not yet been fully assessed and determined.  There is currently no water quality standard for microplastics in the Drinking Water Regulations. However, the EPA is keeping a close eye on European and Irish research in this area, and there may be a standard set in the future.

  • To whom do I report pollution such as: fish kill; forest fire; oil spillage?

    Pollution incidents should be reported in the first instance to the local authority in whose area the incident occurred as they can respond rapidly. The Local Authority will contact the Environmental Protection Agency if an EPA licensed activity is concerned.  If you know it is an EPA licensed activity you should contact us directly as well as the Local Authority.  Use the following link to obtain full details about how to Make an Environmental Complaint

  • Can the EPA stop farmers discharging pollution into rivers?

    This is primarily a matter for the relevant Local Authority, under the Water Pollution Act 1977. If, however, the Local Authority is not fulfilling its function, a complaint can be made to the EPA who will take up the matter with the relevant Local Authority to ensure pollution is not taking place.

  • Where can I find information on water quality at my local beach?

    Before you visit the beach this summer with your family or friends, check External or our Twitter feed @EPABeaches, for information on current water quality and details of any incidents affecting bathing waters. When you get to the beach always check the local notice board to ensure the water quality is good before getting into the water for a swim.