Catchment Science and Management Course


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Course rationale

Local authorities and other implementing bodies will have a greater role in the delivery of the River Basin Management Plan (2022-2027). This course is designed to support local authorities (and others) deliver on their roles in this regard and is in response to requests for upskilling in the field of catchment science from local authority operational staff and management.

The course will cover the practical steps involved in the catchment science essentials, including the principals and practical applications unpinning Integrated Catchment Management, desktop and field investigations, interrogating the data, using best available information, databases and maps, stakeholder participation and public engagement. The course takes a holistic approach and should serve as a key tool in assisting each local authority apply catchment science to their water service delivery remit.


The variability and complexity of our biophysical environment – soils, subsoils, bedrock, ecosystems and weather – makes assessing and determining water movement in the Irish landscape both interesting and demanding. Add to this situation the heterogeneity of human activities locally and regionally, whether in towns or in rural areas, then the challenge of achieving effective water resources and related ecosystem management is apparent.

The key to successful protection and management of our water resources is understanding the situation in catchments and then basing the actions/measures to protect water quality, where it is satisfactory, or improve/restore, where it is unsatisfactory, on this understanding.

Catchment science is the study of the dynamic interactions between the physical catchment landscape, the ecosystems that sit within that landscape, and the human activities that can cause impacts to ecosystems in that landscape (Deakin, 2017). These three elements are all linked within the source-pathway-receptor (SPR) framework, which is illustrated in the diagram below. Therefore, catchment science is critical to providing the understanding mentioned above.

Illustration of the catchment science and management nexus (Copied from Deakin (2017). Catchments Newsletter, Issue 7

But if there is a science called ‘catchment science’, then catchment scientists are needed! According to Deakin (2017), ‘the ideal catchment scientist has a firm knowledge and understanding of all the source and pathway receptor elements of catchments, a good grounding in measures, and most importantly, the capacity to integrate, analyse and synthesise that knowledge to gain new understanding for the purposes of answering relevant catchment science and management questions. As is obvious from this quote and from the above illustration, knowledge of many disciplinary areas is essential. Those of us working in the area are from a wide variety of backgrounds; we have detailed knowledge and experience of our own area and have gained and are still learning from our colleagues with different disciplines.

For those of us that are now undertaking catchment science and management, one of the features is how interesting and rewarding the work is, not to mention the satisfaction of arriving at conclusions that we feel will achieve the objectives set for the water bodies we deal with. One of our objectives for this course will be to show how enjoyable and relevant knowledge and application of catchment science and management is for mitigating the impacts of human activities on not only our water resources but also our ecosystems and our climate.

General Course Content

The Course will cover the catchment science and management aspects for the following areas:

  1. Water Framework Directive (WFD) and River Basin Management Plan implementation.
    1. i) Protecting water quality where it is Not at Risk of meeting the required status objectives.
    2. ii) Restoring water quality where it is At Risk of not meeting the required status objectives.
  2. Drinking water source protection.
    1. i) Protecting untreated source water where it is satisfactory.
    2. ii) Improving untreated source water where it is unsatisfactory.
  3. Compliance checking.
  4. Site environmental assessments.
  5. Co-benefits of measures/actions, thereby linking with terrestrial ecosystem management and climate actions.

While the focus will be oriented primarily towards watercourses in a catchment/sub-catchment context, the content, processes, and approaches described are also applicable to groundwater, water abstraction, developments on sites and inspections.


Learning Objectives

  • To highlight and outline a systematic, focused approach to deciding on and implementing protection (where situation is satisfactory) and mitigation (where situation is unsatisfactory) measures and actions as a means of increasing the likelihood of achieving the desired environmental outcomes in an efficient and effective manner.
  • To show the relevance of the combined integrated catchment management (ICM) and the Framework for Integrated Land and Landscape Management (FILLM) as an overarching framework for water resources and ecosystems management.
  • To communicate the necessary catchment science principles, processes, and methods for all the relevant discipline areas.
  • To outline a recommended integrated approach to evaluating data and reporting.
  • To highlight the role of community participation in management of our water resources.


Summary of Course Programme

The Course will consist of three Modules:

  • Module 1 (2023) – Setting the Scene, Catchment Science and Pressures
    • To concentrate on the fundamental catchment science aspects and deal with the various pressures.
    • To provide supporting information for the development of operational work plans.
    • via Online recorded presentations (Available Below). (3 days) 
  • Module 2 (2023) – Characterisation and Field Element
    • Characterisation is critical to providing the understanding on which protection and mitigation actions/measures are based; 3 days, one of which will be a fieldtrip, will outline and consider all the various desk and field aspects.
    • Two full training days in training centre and one field day. (3 days) 
  • Module 3 (2023) – Protection and Mitigation
    • Outline a recommended approach, with some examples, to decide on protection and mitigation strategies and measures/actions. In particular, it will cover public engagement and collaboration.
    • One day in training centre and one day in the field. (2 days)



Click on the links below to download a printable version of the Handbook

Registration Form

Head Office Address:
Local Authority Waters Programme
Clár Uiscí na nÚdarás Áitiúil
The Lodge, Ballingarrane, Clonmel,
Co. Tipperary, E91 X370
Alternatively you can contact any member of our Team through our Team’s Page.