This indicators report is based on monitoring data collected in 2022 and provides an update on the water quality of Ireland’s rivers, lakes, estuaries, coastal, and groundwaters. The report provides an update on the trends and indicators of biological quality and nutrient levels of our waterbodies. A full assessment of the overall quality and ecological status of Ireland’s waters is published every three years.
- There has been no significant change in the biological quality of our rivers or lakes in 2022. The rate of decline largely matches the rate of improvement.
- Nitrate concentrations are too high in 40% of river sites nationally and in 20% of estuarine and coastal water bodies. These elevated levels are found mainly in the south and south east and are too high to support good water quality in our estuaries. This is primarily attributable to intensive agricultural activities on freely draining soils in these areas. Most of the nitrogen in Irish waters comes from organic and inorganic fertilisers. Average nitrate levels in rivers and groundwaters increased nationally between 2021 and 2022. While levels can fluctuate between years based on climate there is no indication that nitrate levels are reducing.
- Phosphate concentrations are too high in 28% of rivers and 36% of lakes which impacts on their biological quality. Concentrations will need to reduce in these rivers and lakes to improve water quality. Phosphate primarily comes from wastewater discharges and from agricultural run-off in areas with poorly draining soils. Phosphate levels in rivers and lakes fluctuate between years but have been generally stable over recent years.
- Nitrogen and phosphorous loadings to the marine environment have been generally increasing since 2013. Loads of both nutrients were higher in 2022 than in 2021, placing continued pressure on our marine water bodies.
This report confirms that current action to protect and restore water quality in Ireland’s waterways is not effective. More needs to be done to reach our WFD objectives of good status in all waterbodies by 2027.
This means it is imperative that the next River Basin Management Plan is resourced to deliver the right action in the right place for outcomes for water restoration and protection of every waterbody.
EPA Water Quality indicators Report 2022