Water Quality


Water Pollution Control

Pollution Control involves the maintenance and improvement of water quality in the county's rivers and lakes. These lakes and rivers are a valuable natural resource and provide sources of drinking water, centres for tourism, recreation and amenity uses. Surface water quality has been on the decline in Ireland for many years. This trend must be reversed in accordance with the Water Framework Directive. See "What You Can Do".

The provisions of the Local Government (Water Pollution) Act, 1977 to 2007 (and related Regulations) are employed to achieve improvements in water quality in the county.

Under section 3 of the Local Government (Water Pollution) Act 1977 and 1990, it is an offence to cause or permit any polluting matter to enter waters. A person who causes or permits polluting matter to enter waters shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable to prosecution. See "Discharge Licences".

Roscommon County Council was involved in the Lough Ree & Lough Derg Catchment Management Study for the Shannon Region. This has now been superseded by the Shannon River Basin project.

The Water Framework Directive employs a River Basin District (RBD) approach to the improvement of water quality. Roscommon County Council is in two RBDs:

Local Authorities in Ireland are working together with others to prepare River Basin Management Plans (RBMP) which are due to be adopted in early 2010. Public consultation with interested parties is an intrinsic part of the formulation of these plans and has taken place at a number of different stages.


Zebra Mussels

Visit www.alienspecies.ie for more information.


Ground Water

Groundwater is defined as "all water which is below the surface of the ground in the saturation zone and in direct contact with the ground or subsoil". Groundwater may provide base flow to surface water systems and as such its quality can influence surface water quality and its uses. Groundwater is also a source for drinking water and in Roscommon it accounts for 80% to 85% of the supplies. For these reasons its protection is vital. Once polluted, it can be very difficult to remediate.

The main risks to groundwater are from:

  • Poorly maintained/constructed onsite wastewater treatment systems. e.g. septic tank/percolation areas
  • Leaking slurry/soiled water storage facilities
  • Direct runoff from farm yards/silage slabs
  • The inappropriate land spreading of agricultural wastes
  • Leaking underground storage of hydrocarbons

Roscommon County Council commissioned the Geological Survey of Ireland to prepare a Groundwater Protection Plan for the county. The vulnerability maps prepared shows that groundwater in large areas of the county are in extreme or highly vulnerable areas.


Drinking Water Quality

The European Directive on the quality of water intended for human consumption was transposed into Irish law by the European Communities (Drinking Water) Regulations 2000 as amended, and came into effect on 1st January 2004.

The new Regulations prescribed 48 parametric values which are classified as being either microbiological, chemical or indicator. These are divided into two monitoring categories, check and audit monitoring. Roscommon County Council added a third category called operational to enhance the requirements of the Regulations.

Roscommon's compliance with the Regulations for 2007 is shown in the table below.

Roscommon Drinking Water Quality 2007
 MicroChemicalIndicator
Overall97.1%99.5%96.8%
PWS99.1%99.5%98.5%
PuGWS100%100%96.2%
PrGWS82.5%-87.7%
SPS85.3%-83.3%

PWS - Public water supplies

PuGWS - Public Group water schemes

PrGWS - Private Group water schemes

SPS - Small Private Supplies


Discharge Licences

Trade or sewage effluent discharges to waters require a licence in accordance with section 4 of the Water Pollution Acts. Sewage effluent of less than 5M3 per day discharging to groundwater's is exempt from licencing.

Trade effluent discharges to sewers require a licence in accordance with section 16 of the Water Pollution Acts.


Farm Surveys

Farm surveys or inspections are carried out in Roscommon to determine the risk of water pollution from a farmyard. The purpose of the survey is to safeguard water quality and to reduce the potential for loss or uncontrolled discharge of slurry, effluent and soiled water from farmyards. These types of discharges can contribute significantly to the phosphorous concentration in surface waters. These surveys involve the following:

  • An inspection of the farmyard by authorised officer of the County Council
  • The preparation of a report identifying any potential pollution risks from the farmyard

Areas targeted are those identified by the EPA as being less than good water quality status.


What You Can Do

The solution to water pollution - IS YOU!

Report pollution incidents. See our Environment Complaints Form.doc (size 28.7 KB).

At Home:

  • Conserve water
  • Detergents - only use low phosphorous detergents i.e. less than 5%
  • If you have a septic tank,
    • It should only discharge to a percolation area not to a watercourse.
    • All sinks, showers, washing machines etc should be connected to the tank.
    • No roof or surface water should be allowed enter the tank.
    • Septic tanks should be desludged once per year or when a scum is visible in and/or the depth of sludge is greater than 400mm in the second chamber.
  • Do not dispose of household hazardous materials (paints, solvents, weedkiller, engine oil etc) into watercourses or sewers.

On The Farm:

  • Keep all dangerous substances stored safely and safe guard against accidental spillage. E.g. pesticides, veterinary products, oil, and artificial fertiliser. Any accidental spillages of harmful substances should be reported to the local authority. This is a requirement of law and failure to report an accidental spillage or discharge to waters may result in prosecution.
  • Provide and maintain gutters and eves runs for all roof water from farm buildings and divert to surface water or soak pit. Control and manage the collection and storage of all farmyard wastewater, including cattle manure, cattle slurry, silage effluent, soiled water from yards, manure heaps and dairy washings.
  • Pollution of surface water and wells should be avoided by leaving a buffer strip between the water source and the land:
    • 5 metres for Streams and drains
    • 20 meters for lakes and main river channels
    • 50 metres for domestic wells
    • Up to 200 metres for Public Water Supply Sources
  • No chemical fertiliser should be applied within 1.5 metres of any watercourse.
  • Storage of farmyard wastes is required over the 20 weeks of winter/spring.
  • Land spreading of:
    • Chemical fertiliser on land is prohibited form the 15th September to the 15th January
    • Organic fertiliser (other than farmyard manure) on land is prohibited from the 15th October to the 15th January
    • Farmyard manure on land is prohibited from the 1st November to the 15th January
  • Never spread chemical fertiliser or farmyard wastes when heavy rain is forecast within the next 48 hours or on:
    • wet or waterlogged land
    • frozen or snow-covered land
    • land sloping steeply towards rivers, streams or lakes, on exposed bedrock or in situations where there is a significant risk of causing water pollution

For further details on farm water protection, and other good environmental practices, consult the European Communities (Good Agricultural Practices for Protection of Waters) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No 378 of 2006).