Bathing waters at Lough Owel and Lene 'excellent' while Lilliput improved 'significantly'

Latest EPA report

Bathing waters in Lough Owel and Lough Lene have been classed as “excellent” while Lilliput shows an improvement for the first time in four years.

That’s according to the latest report from the The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which today published the Water Quality in Ireland Report 2016-2021.

It provides the latest assessment of the quality of Ireland’s rivers, lakes, estuaries, coastal and groundwaters.

Portnashangan at Lough Owel and The Cut at Lough Lene have received the highest water quality rating, classified as “Excellent”, while water quality at Lilliput in Lough Ennell had a category of ‘Changes’ applied for 2021 due to a significant improvement in water quality there.

Lilliput had been classified as ‘Poor’ during 2018, 2019 and 2020, but in the last two years, the water quality improved significantly due to actions being taken in the surrounding catchment.

The new category of ‘Changes’ means the restrictions on swimming in that area can now be removed.

Farming run-off

Run-off from farming activities when it rained was identified as the main problem. That's according to Westmeath County Council and the Local Authority Waters Programme (LAWPRO), which carried out investigations around the lake to identify the sources of pollution.

“The Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advisory Programme (ASSAP) engaged with the farming community on how best to address the issues,” stated the report.

“The willingness of the landowners to put the measures in place, for example by changing their land spreading practices, was key.

“This approach has led to significant improvement in the quality of bathing water with all samples for 2021 being of excellent quality. These positive outcomes are an excellent example of how working together can improve water quality. “

Overall, the report found that bathing water quality has continued to improve nationally, as 97% of the 148 identified bathing waters met or exceeded the minimum required standard.

A total of 115 bathing waters were ‘Excellent’ quality, up four from 2020, while two bathing waters were classed as ‘Poor’, down two from 2020.

The EPA says there are still some issues to address, mainly, agriculture, urban waste water and fouling from dogs on beaches all impacted on the quality of bathing waters.

The report also suggests that Irish Water need to improve the operation, management and maintenance of treatment plants and networks which impact on bathing waters.

What can the public do?

The EPA says we can all help by bringing our rubbish home, cleaning up after our dogs, and reporting pollution. It also encourages the public to watch the weather – as bathing water quality can be impacted for 48 hours or longer after heavy rainfall.

Each year, local authorities take samples of bathing waters just before, and during the bathing season. In Ireland, the season runs from 1 June to 15 September each year. Water quality at beaches and lakes is classified as either Excellent, Good, Sufficient or Poor.