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Landowners & Interest Groups

Local Authorities

The Local Authorities are one of the key authorities responsible for the implementation of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) in Ireland.

Water Framework Directive (WFD)

The protection and restoration of our high status rivers and lakes is one of the key aspects of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and through their work and responsibilities, local authorities are in a good position to implement strategies which will aid this, as detailed in the EPA STRIVE report – Management strategies for the protection of high status water bodies. For example:

  • Planning and development in high status catchments should be assessed in conjunction with environmental departments within the local authorities.
  • Current and future development in high status catchment areas must be carefully balanced to maintain the important ecosystem services and public goods e.g. clean drinking water, possible flood alleviation, scenic surroundings and amenities, and the associated amenity value and income.
  • Permitting further development within high status areas must be given very careful consideration. High status catchment areas and the pristine waters within, have little or no capacity for further intensification that may cause an increase in pollutants such as nutrients to enter rivers and lakes. Simply, a faulty septic tank may cause pollution to enter a nearby waterbody, causing the water quality in the river/lake to degrade.
  • There is a big overlap between high status areas, special areas of conservation (SACs) and shellfish areas. As such we need to implement similar protection strategies to these areas. Careful consideration and coordination is required across these areas to ensure the right measures are put in the right place.
  • County Development Plans (CDP) should be used as part of a catchment management approach to plan for the protection of high status sites and waterbodies. CDP iterations should make reference to high status catchment protection until the plans are revised.

Nature-based Sustainable Drainage Systems

Urban runoff or surface water runoff of rainwater in towns and cities may pick up lots of pollutants along its journey, which can cause pollution in our waterbodies such as rivers and lakes. High-status rivers and lakes are very sensitive to pollutants so it is imperative that we manage urban runoff effectively.

Local authorities play a vital role in the development and integration of nature based solutions for the management of rainwater and surface water runoff in urban areas. To ensure the successful delivery of nature-based Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS), it is essential that they are incorporated at the early planning stages. The role of the local authority planners covers two statutory areas:

  • Spatial planning strategy and forward planning e.g. county development plans and local area plans; and
  • Private development proposals, which usually involves pre-planning discussions between the local authority planners and the development project team.

You can find more information regarding the best practice interim guidance on “Nature-based Solutions to the Management of Rainwater and Surface Water Runoff in Urban Areas” below.

Water and Planning Guidance

The Water and Planning Guidance aims to provide practical advice to planning authorities on how the environmental objectives of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) are to be fully integrated into the planning system and introduces the process of Water Status Impact Assessment (WSIA) as the formal means to assess compliance of plans and projects with the objectives of the WFD. The Guidelines also sets out the decision-making process for assessing whether an exemption from achieving WFD objectives is justified under the strict criteria of Article 4(7) of the WFD.

The Guidelines are structured as two volumes: Volume 1 comprises the Section 28 Statutory Guidelines setting out the general information and approach to WSIA at the strategic and development management level for integrating WFD objectives. Volume 2 presents Technical Guidance setting out the new detailed process for WSIA, including case studies to illustrate the process.

In addition, a new technical note on undertaking Morphological Risk Assessments for Rivers is being published in parallel to the Planning Guidelines to complement the existing toolkit of methods for assessment of WFD objectives. This Morphological Risk Assessment tool enables planning authorities to determine whether a planned development in or close to rivers is likely to cause deterioration to the physical condition/health of those rivers.

A final draft of the guidance documents were recently approved by the project steering group and will now undergo the Strategic Environmental (SEA) / Appropriate Assessment (AA) process, before being published for public consultation, along with the SEA/AA reports, in Q2 2022.

Water Pollution Act

Local authorities have been delegated a number of powers under the Water Pollution Act, which gives them the power to complete a number of actions such as:

  • prosecution for a water pollution offence;
  • issue notices or obtain High Court injunctions ordering individuals to cease polluting activities and to remediate the impact of the pollution;
  • make bye-laws to regulate certain agricultural activities to prevent or eliminate pollution of waters;
  • require farmers to prepare nutrient management plans to ensure that nutrients applied to lands from chemical fertiliser and organic farm wastes take account of nutrients already available in the soil and are consistent with recommended application rates, crop requirement and the need to avoid water pollution.

Local Authority Waters Programme

The Local Authority Waters Programme (LAWPRO) works on behalf of all 31 local authorities in Ireland to coordinate the implementation of measures on the ground to achieve good or high water quality in our waterbodies as required by the Water Framework Directive. LAWPRO works to identify issues affecting water quality across the country and collaborate with relevant stakeholders to find a solution. This approach is dependent on successful community engagement – combining local and expert knowledge for a better understanding of what’s happening in a local catchment and waterbody.

For more information on the work that LAWPRO does, please visit their website at