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

Waste under the topic of Monitoring and Assessment

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Air

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

Noise under the topic of Monitoring and Assessment

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Radiation

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.

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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 Jan 2024
Hydrology summary bulletin - January 2024

Hydrology Summary Bulletin for January 2024 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
EPA finds no significant improvement in the water quality of rivers and lakes

Date released: June 13, 2023

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has today published the report Water Quality in 2022 – An Indicators Report which provides an update on the water quality of Ireland’s rivers, lakes, estuaries, coastal, and groundwaters for 2022.

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.

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

  • Where can I find information on water quality for my local river or lake?

    Catchments.ie shares science and stories about water quality in Ireland. This includes water quality data for all waterbodies in Ireland, the EPA Water Map and 46 catchment assessments.

    You can also use the EPA's My Local Environment Map to show you what is near you by entering your Eircode.

     

  • I want to help look after my local river or lake. What should I do?

    The Local Authority Waters Progamme has Community Water Officers all around the country who work with local people to build awareness, help build group capacity, support training and citizen science initiatives and strengthen links between public bodies, funders and communities who are looking after their rivers, lakes and other waters.

    You can find contact details for your local Community Water Officer on the LA Waters Programme website.

  • 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 the EPA directly as well as the Local Authority.  

    This link has the full details about how to Make an Environmental Complaint

    Fish kills: To report fish kills, members of the public are encouraged to call Inland Fisheries Ireland’s confidential hotline number on 0818 34 74 24, which is open 24 hours a day.

    Forest Fire: If you need to report a forest fire please dial 999 and ask for Fire Services. You will be put through to one of the national call centres who will record the necessary details.

     

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

    Before you visit the beach this summer with your family or friends, check out www.beaches.ie or our Twitter feed @EPABeaches

     

    Before going to the beach you can check beaches.ie to see the latest bathing water quality (excellent, good, sufficient or poor) and find out if there are any current warnings or advice against swimming notices.

    • At the beach or lake – lifeguards will fly the red flags when bathing waters are considered unsafe for bathing. You can check out the notice boards to see the latest water quality and if any warnings or advice against bathing notices have been posted by the local authorities.

    • The 48-hour rule after heavy rain – swimming after heavy rainfall carries an added risk of pollution from surface runoff and is best avoided for 48 hours. Further information can be found on www.beaches.ie/protect-your-health-with-the-48-hour-rule/

     @EPABeaches – You can follow the @EPABeaches Twitter account and receive tweets of news and information on bathing waters and tweets of when bathing water incidents start and are over.

  • 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.