The EPA have today released the Water Quality in 2022 report, indicating that Ireland has not made any significant improvements in water quality for 2022. This follows a decade-long decline in water quality in Ireland.

Nutrient pollution is identified as one of the main drivers of the declines, specifically from agriculture and wastewater treatment. Nitrate pollution is a particular problem in the south and south east - 40% of our rivers and 20% of estuarine and coastal water bodies have too much nitrogen. The primary cause of this damage is intensive agriculture. 

The EPA clearly highlighted the importance of the next River Basin Management Plan in addressing all the pressures on water quality, but the measures in the draft plan have been widely criticised for being too weak to stem the tide on water pollution. It is imperative that the final River Basin Management Plan provides robust measures to adequately combat the multiple drivers of pollution.

Dr. Elaine McGoff, Natural Environment Officer with An Taisce said:

In what has now become an annual ritual, this report from the EPA again highlights the consistent decline in water quality. While there have been some small improvements, they’re overshadowed by declines. This is not a good news story.

This will come as no surprise to anyone working in the area. Dairy intensification is the main driver for nitrate pollution in the south and south east. Ireland now has approximately 1.6 million dairy cows, that’s an increase of around 50% in the last decade, with a 1.4% increase in 2022. It’s no surprise that average nitrate levels in rivers and estuaries also increased.

The EPA have clearly highlighted that the agricultural sector and Uisce Eireann need to step up to address this ongoing nutrient pollution, but this report is another clear indication that the water protection measures currently in place are failing to adequately protect our rivers, coast and groundwater from agricultural run-off. 

It’s also shocking that our waste water treatment plants are still polluting our waterways in this day and age. It is critical that the Government take the necessary steps, and provide the necessary funding to halt wastewater discharges into all water bodies.

We need a step change in how we manage our waters and how we manage land within their catchments. We can’t keep doing largely the same thing, and expecting a different outcome. The government is in the middle of drafting up a new plan for how we manage water, this is our chance to change the direction of travel and to put ambitious and far reaching measures that are clearly necessary in place. It remains to be seen if they’ll do that.” 


For further information, contact:

Elaine McGoff, Natural Environment Officer, An Taisce: 085 7153796

email: [email protected]

An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland

An Taisce - Protecting Ireland’s heritage, safeguarding its future

An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.