Water source catchments

How we manage water source catchments can affect the quality of our drinking water. Learn more about how to protect water sources from contamination.

A water source catchment is the area of land that contributes water to a river, lake, groundwater well or spring. Water catchments are used to supply drinking water. Many types of land can be found within a water source catchment, including:

  • agriculture
  • urban areas
  • forests
  • peatlands

Water source catchments are an extensive part of Ireland's geography. When combined, water source catchments used for public water supplies make up almost 50% of the country. We get our water from approximately 290 surface water catchments and 960 groundwater catchments.

Water sources are protected under different legislation, including the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and the Nitrates Directive. The legislation recognises that water catchments are thefirst line of defence for providing safe and clean drinking water.

Further information and maps are available on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website.

The catchment-based approach

Harmful ativities in water source catchments can affect our water quality and the environment. If land is not managed safely in these areas, it can increase the risk of contamination in our drinking water. This also presents challenges at our water treatment plants relating to contaminants such as pesticides, sediment, pathogens and more. That's why it's important to put measures in place that protect the water catchments.

The benefits of managing water source catchments safely include:

Improving water quality

Protecting biodiversity

Reducing emissions

Activities in catchments

We work closely with organisations to protect water source catchments. Our goal is to raise awareness of the potential impact that activities in water catchments can have on our drinking water. We provide recommendations to stakeholders on how they can protect water sources for the following activities:

  • afforestation and felling
  • peatland restoration
  • wind farms
  • exploration drilling
  • housing and domestic wastewater treatment systems
  • quarries and landfills

Guidance on protecting water sources for the agricultural sector

Managing water source catchments is particularly important in the agricultural sector. Learn more about best practices for pesticide use and farming activities.