How we assess the health of our waters

The European Water Framework Directive

Our rivers, lakes, estuaries, coastal and groundwaters are assessed under the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD). This EU law came into effect in December 2000. Having a single European framework to assess water quality allows us to compare our results across Europe.

Our surface waters are classified into five quality classes (status) under the WFD:

WFD Status

‘High’ is when the water is unpolluted, and ‘Bad’ is when the water is highly polluted. Our ground waters fall into two quality classes (status) under the WFD: 'Good’ and ‘Poor’.

The WFD allows us to see where actions are needed to achieve Good status or to protect Good or High status where it already exists. It also helps us identify what actions need to be taken. We can restore rivers to Good and High status by using targeted actions and measures to reduce the impact of human activities.

We also assess the available water resources in our rivers, lakes and groundwaters to determine if there is enough water to sustain a healthy environment.

More information on the WFD can be found on the website of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. This includes the plans that are being implemented in Ireland to help us achieve Good and High status.

Water quality information

Detailed information about water quality in Ireland is available online:

  • Read the latest EPA reports on water quality
  • View water quality data through our Water Map
  • You can find out all about your local bathing water quality, tides, weather and accessibility on
  • Stories, science and detailed local data about the health of Ireland’s waters are on
  • Data on water levels and flows are on Hydronet
  • Download geospatial information for use in a Geographical Information System (GIS) from the EPA Geoportal