High Status Objective Water Bodies
High status surface water bodies are the rivers, lakes, estuarine and coastal waters with the best quality water. These waters are home to lots of species that are sensitive to pollution and would not survive in lower quality waters. High status waters have a natural physical form that has not been changed by human activities e.g. humans have not straightened the river channel or built hard structures to support the river banks. These waters have excellent water quality with little or no excess nutrients and healthy river beds, free of excess siltation.
Locations and condition of HSO sites
High Status Objective or “blue dot “waters bodies are water bodies which are either currently at high status or have been at high status in the recent past and for which a target of restoring them to high status has been set in the River Basin Management Plan for Ireland 2022 to 2027. The map viewer shows the location of all high status objective water bodies and sites in Ireland. It also indicates which of those are currently failing to meet the requirements for high status.
High status waters reflect largely undisturbed catchment conditions and status that is close to natural or pristine. They indicate the reference status that catchment management should strive to achieve. They may also be centres of high biodiversity, or may contain rare and threatened habitats some of which are essential to survival of species with very particular ecological requirements such as the endangered fresh water pearl mussel. The presence of high status sites can contribute significantly to species diversity and these sites act as refuges for species that are a source for re-colonisation of river stretches that are recovering from pollution. High status sites and their catchments are also important providers of ecosystem goods and services and are areas of high natural capital value.
Unfortunately many sites previously at high status have lost their status over recent decades. In its most recent Water Quality Indicators Report Ireland’s EPA reported a decline in the number of high status sites from almost one third (31%) of sites monitored in the 1980s to just under one fifth (17%) in 2017, and only 30 of these remaining high status sites are considered pristine. The EPA conclude that the ongoing loss of our most pristine rivers is a very significant concern. A large effort is required to protect the few remaining high status river sites and, where possible, return impacted ones to high status.