Hydromorphology/surface water alterations

Landowners may decide they need to alter surface waters (eg. rivers, steams, ponds etc.) in order to drain land, create water supplies or reduce the risk of flooding or for other reasons. Other activities near surface waters such as the removal of trees and vegetation from river banks can have an serious impact on acquatic ecosystems.

Protecting water bodies

Altering the physical condition of surface water bodies can cause significant damage to ecosystems and has the potential to contribute to the risk of failing to achieve good status under the Water Framework Directive (WFD). Under WFD, Member States must ensure that the hydromorphological conditions of water bodies are consistent with the achievement of the required ecological status.

Controls over hydromorphological alterations are the responsibility of a number of government Departments and Agencies.

In order to protect our water bodies, it is also important that everyone is aware of the laws and controls in place with respect to alterations to water bodies. 

To aid the public in this regard, the Department has published a handbook entitled ‘Surface Water Alterations Handbook’. This handbook is for landowners and people and organisations involved in carrying out activities that may alter the physical characteristics or flows of rivers and other waterbodies. It provides advice on the regulatory controls and best practice policies which apply to alterations.

The controls specified in the handbook should be taken into account before any alterations are carried out and the appropriate approvals/consents should be sought in advance. It should be noted that the granting of consent under one regulation does not remove the need for any other consent, nor does it mean that such other consents will necessarily be given. If in doubt, people are advised to contact the relevant Departments, authorities and Agencies.


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