Ireland has seen a long-term trend of decline in the number of high-status (Q5 and Q4-5) river sites in recent decades. Of monitored river sites, 19% had high status in the 2017-2019 assessment period compared to 31.6% in the 1987-1990. The trend of decline had been noted up to 2018 (See EPA Water Quality Report 2019), however small improvements are noted in the 2017-2019 assessment period. This assessment has shown a welcome increase of 58 sites classified as high quality (Q4-5 and Q5), though only two were in the Q5 category (highest quality) bringing the total number to 22.

EPA – WATER QUALITY IN 2019 An Indicators Report

As a result of the decline, the protection of high status waters was highlighted as one of the main priorities of the River Basin Management Plan for Ireland 2018-2021. The Plan places particular emphasis on the protection and, where possible, looks to provide the framework for restoration to high-status of some water bodies, where deterioration has occurred since the beginning of the first river basin management planning cycle in 2007 – 2009. The Plan outlined several Principal Actions related to high status rivers and lakes including the setting up of the Blue Dot Catchments Programme to be developed and coordinated by a Blue Dot Steering Group.

The Blue Dot Catchments Programme is a collaborative programme being delivered by a range of agencies as a means of focusing attention and resources towards the protection and restoration of our high status objective waters. The programme also endeavours to raise awareness amongst land managers and state bodies on the sensitivity of these waters. The work of the Blue Dot Catchments Programme is delivered by the Blue Dot Steering Group which was set up in late 2018 and had its first meeting in January 2019.

Vision for the Programme

The Blue Dot Catchments Programmes vision is:

Collaborating with local communities to protect and improve our pristine waters so that the benefits to biodiversity, our health and well-being, our heritage and the climate can be enjoyed by current and future generations.