Estuarine and Coastal Waters

Bathing water quality map of Ireland 2012
The quality of bathing water in Ireland (EPA, 2013)


Ireland is an island surrounded by seawater and has a coastline of approximately 7,500 km.  Its position in the Atlantic Ocean on the north-western edge of Europe has provided us with cleaner estuarine and coastal waters than that enjoyed by most of our European neighbours.  These waters are also very productive as nutrients are swept up from deeper Atlantic waters onto our continental shelf fueling extensive fish stocks.

The waters are used for bathing, fishing, aquaculture, waste disposal and exploration for oil and gas and each of these activities, in turn, has the potential to adversely effect our estaurine and coastal waters.


Ireland has a large number of wonderful bathing areas around the coast boasting magnificent beaches and clean bathing waters.  These bathing areas are monitored regularly in the summer months and the quality is high. In 2012, 97.1% of bathing waters (132 of 136) complied with the EU mandatory values and achieved at least “sufficient” water quality status (EPA, 2013). For more details, see the Bathing Water Report for 2012 here.

In July 2009, the EPA launched a new online map-based website “Splash” that provides the public with bathing water quality information for the 132 designated bathing areas around Ireland . The website provides the latest bathing water sampling results for each bathing area during the bathing season and their compliance status with EU bathing water quality standards. It also provides information about the compliance history of these bathing areas from 2003 onwards. In addition, the website provides a description of the beach, aerial and ordinary photography, details of blue flag status and lifeguard availability, as well as current weather and tidal information. For details please go to splash.epa.ie/

Trophic Status

Estuarine And Coastal Water Quality
Courtesy EPA

Most of the larger cities and towns in Ireland are located on the coast with wastewater from domestic and industrial activities discharging to nearby estuaries.

These discharges contain organic waste and nutrient loads and further nutrient enrichment is carried to the sea by the major rivers.  As a result, a number of estuaries and coastal areas display evidence of increased enrichment and these are mostly on the south-east and south coast as shown in red on the map.

Continuing investment in better wastewater treatment and careful use of agricultural fertiliser to limit runoff to nearby streams is required if this enrichment is to be reduced.


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