Ireland’s waters can’t speak up. Will you?

Ireland, and Europe, is blessed with some of the world’s most stunning rivers, lakes and wetlands; from the wild Atlantic lakes of Connemara to the crystal clear, snow-fed rivers of the high Alps. But more than half of our (Ireland’s and Europe’s) waters are not in a healthy state.  They are protected by strong EU water law but instead of enforcing this properly, governments want to weaken the law to make life easier for themselves and industry. This could be the kiss of death for some of our rivers, lakes and wetlands, and the vulnerable wildlife, like our iconic salmon, that depend on them for survival.

Together, we MUST stop this from happening!

The European Commission is now deciding what to do next and wants you to have your say through its public consultation on water.  This is your only chance to tell them to keep our water law strong!

Across Europe nature lovers are mobilising to #ProtectWater! We have prepared a response to the consultation for you that will best ensure that the law is kept safe.

To send this to the European Commission, please fill in your details in the box to the right and click ‘ACT NOW’.

Thank you for supporting #ProtectWater!




The main European water protection law is the 2000 Water Framework Directive (WFD). This forward-looking and ecologically-based directive is a cornerstone of EU environmental legislation and it brought together what had been very fragmented water regulations.  It sets out a logical framework for how governments must map and assess the health of their rivers, lakes, coast and groundwaters, and then set out a management plan, called a ‘river basin management plan’, to bring unhealthy waters up to good ecological status.  The water directive (WFD) required all waters to achieve good status by 2015 and prohibits any further deterioration.  Acknowledging the challenges involved, the WFD permits, under strict conditions, two further 6-year river management cycles in order to achieve good status for all waters, with the next deadline in 2021 and a final deadline of 2027.

The WFD has been the main driver behind a wave of cutting-edge research on water and aquatic science and has resulted in unprecedented information about water quality and pollution and also the threats to our rivers, lakes, coasts and groundwater. However, progress ground to a halt once countries, including Ireland had to take the next important step of actually introducing measures to halt water quality decline.


photo of Connemara lakes on a sunny day


Because the state of our rivers reflects the sum total of impacts of all the activities taking place in a catchment, meeting the requirements of the WFD entails significant changes to how we manage our industrial and human waste, how we use and manage our land and how we generate power and control floods, especially in the context of climate change.   Instead of tackling this in a whole-of-government way, many countries have forged ahead with hugely damaging hydropower schemes (Slovenia, Bosnia, Bulgaria), and national programmes to drive agricultural intensification (Ireland).

These plans are inconsistent with protecting our waters and meeting the requirement of the water directive, and thus more than half of Ireland’s and Europe’s rivers, streams, lakes and wetlands are not healthy.  Member States are trying to get around this now by availing of an opportunity to weaken the law.

Article 19 of the WFD requires the EU Commission to review the directive in 2019.  As part of this, they are also conducting a full ‘Fitness Check’ to assess it under five standard criteria which it uses to evaluate policy: effectiveness; efficiency; coherence; relevance and EU added value.   They are running an online public consultation as part of this, and this is the consultation for which we have prepared appropriate answers for you, which convey the strong message that the Water Framework Directive IS effective and fit for purpose and just needs to be implemented properly by member states, including Ireland, rather than watered down.

Thanks again for acting to #ProtectWater!