Next Irish Water Investment Plan must halt sewage in waters where it is a significant pollution

The Sustainable Water Network (SWAN) is calling for immediate action from government to dramatically improve Ireland’s waste water infrastructure, following today’s publication of a report from the EPA on Urban Waste Water Treatment [1]. The network of 25 environmental organisations, are calling on government to ensure the next Irish Water Investment Plan has actions to halt sewage discharges in the more than 200 water bodies degraded by wastewater pollution.

The report highlights that raw sewage from 32 towns and villages flowed into our water every day in mid 2022, down by only two from 34 in 2020. For over 200 waterbodies, inadequately treated sewage is a major pollution pressure and reason they are unhealthy and failing mandatory standards under the EU Water Framework Directive. This law required that these polluted waterbodies be restored by 2027, yet Irish Water has no clear plan for two-thirds (27) of  the top 38 of these identified by the EPA as urgently in need of treatment to stop environmental damage. The next Irish Water Investment Plan runs from 2025-2029 and is a chance to put in the much needed investment and resources to restore these waters.  Five years ago, the European Court of Justice found that Ireland was failing to meet obligations of the older Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive, and the state is now at risk of incurring significant fines if the situation isn’t remedied swiftly.[2]

SWAN has highlighted decades of lack of investment and lack of political will as the root cause of this failure to deliver a most basic public service, vital for the protection of public health and the environment.

Sinéad O’Brien, SWAN Coordinator said:  “The fact that raw and poorly treated sewage is still being released into our rivers, lakes and sea is completely unacceptable. It’s polluting our water environment and posing a serious risk to sensitive habitats and to public health.”

“Sewage discharges are a significant issue for over 200 of our rivers, lakes and bays which have been assessed as unhealthy by the EPA. Yet we have no commitment by government to ensure that the next Irish Water Investment Plan has clear actions to halt this pollution. They must remedy this unacceptable state of affairs by including these measures in their plan for managing Ireland’s inland and coastal waters, the River Basin Management Plan, which is to be published this year.”

“Our precious water wildlife and health of the people should not have to suffer from the dire consequences of an under-resourced, ineffective waste water infrastructure any longer. Government must step-up and meet its responsibilities to the environment and public health. The imminent River Basin Management Plan will be a test of whether they are willing to do that.”



1.      Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Urban Waste Water Treatment in 2021

2.      European Commission, Commission takes Ireland to Court for failure to upgrade waste water treatment infrastructure, 2017


Call for the government to take action here: https://swanireland.ie/take-action/restore-our-waters/