River Basin Management Plans

River Basin Management Planning takes an integrated approach to the protection, improvement and sustainable management of the water environment.  The planning process revolves around a six year planning cycle of action and review, so that every six years a revised river basin management plan is produced.

2nd Cycle River Basin Mangement Plan 2018-2021

On April 17th 2018 the Government published the River Basin Management Plan for Ireland 2018-2021.

The Plan sets out the actions that Ireland will take to improve water quality and achieve ‘good’ ecological status in water bodies (rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters) by 2027. Ireland is required to produce a river basin management plan under the Water Framework Directive (WFD). Water quality in Ireland has deteriorated over the past two decades. The Plan provides a more coordinated framework for improving the quality of our waters — to protect public health, the environment, water amenities and to sustain water-intensive industries, including agri-food and tourism, particularly in rural Ireland.

What’s in the Plan?

The River Basin Management Plan outlines the new approach that Ireland will take to protect our waters over the period to 2021. It builds on lessons learned from the first planning cycle in a number of areas:

  • Stronger and more effective delivery structures have been put in place to build the foundations and momentum for long-term improvements to water quality
  • A new governance structure, which brings the policy, technical and implementation actors together with public and representative organisations. This will ensure the effective and coordinated delivery of measures.
  • The newly-established Local Authority Waters and Communities Office (link is external) will help people to get involved in improving water quality at a local level. An Fóram Uisce, also newly established, is a forum for stakeholders, community groups and sectoral representatives. It will analyse and raise awareness of water issues.

An enhanced evidence base has been developed to guide national policies and the targeting of local measures. Technical assessments of 4,829 water bodies have been carried out, examining their status (quality) and whether they are ‘at risk’ of not meeting status objectives in the future. Using this information, the Plan sets out national policies and regional prioritised measures.

1st Cycle River Basin Management Plans: 2009-2014

River Basin Management Plans (RBMP) and Programmes of Measures (PoMs) were prepared for each of the eight River Basin Districts (RBDs). They were valid for a six year period and ran from 2009-2014. The plans summarised the waterbodies that may not meet the environmental objectives of the WFD by 2015 and identified which pressures are contributing to the environmental objectives not being achieved. The plans described the classification results and identified measures that can be introduced in order to safeguard waters and meet the environmental objectives of the WFD. 

An overview of the status of all waterbodies is published in compliance with the requirements of the Water Framework Directive and is available in the WaterMaps section of the official Irish Water Framework website. The water maps provide details on the overall status of individual waterbodies and also the assessment results for different quality elements e.g. chemistry, macroinvertebrates, plants, fish, hydromorphology, etc. The water maps also indicate which programmes of measures have been assigned to water bodies and the timescale by which a waterbody has to achieve its target status.


Changes to River Basin Districts for the 2nd Cycle

For the 2nd Cycle, the Eastern, South Eastern, South Western, Western and Shannon River Basin Districts will be merged to form one national River Basin District.  In relation to the North Western and Neagh Bann International River Basin Districts a single administrative area will be established in the Republic of Ireland portion of these two IRBDs for the purpose of coordinating their management with authorities in Northern Ireland

While this rearrangement will lead to efficiencies in relation to matters such as assessment and reporting, regionalised administrative structures will be put in place to support implementation (e.g. river basin district characterisation, the development of programmes of measures, enforcement, public consultation and awareness activities).  Arrangements will also need to be put in place to facilitate the input of communities at local catchment level.

 WFD 2nd Cycle River Basin Districts

Figure 1: River Basin Districts for the 2nd Cycle of the WFD (2015-2021)