How clean are Dublin’s rivers, lakes and streams?

DCU’s Water Institute launches its second WaterBlitz to find out

Results of first WaterBlitz in 2019 found that Dublin’s waterways were heavily littered

Join the WaterBlitz at

Dublin City University’s Water Institute has again partnered with Earthwatch Europe for the second Dublin WaterBlitz, taking place from May 7th - 10th.

The project encourages Dubliners to test the water in rivers, lakes, streams and canals around the capital so that a snapshot of the health and state of Dublin’s waterways can be taken. The survey is easy to do and the records collected will help direct conservation action.

The first WaterBlitz, which took place in September 2019, found that over one third of locations surveyed were littered, with 18% of rivers tested had high levels of nutrient nitrates but that Dublin had the lowest levels of pollutants of the four European areas surveyed (Paris, London, Luxembourg).


What will be measured in the Waterblitz?

Citizen scientists taking part in the WaterBlitz will test for the nutrients nitrates and phosphates. These nutrients are the most common pollutants in European waters. 

They are also being asked to observe algae, scum on the water surface and levels of litter, particularly personal protective equipment (PPE), at their chosen waterway.

Nitrates are often found in water in the presence of fertilisers. When washed into our watercourses and waterbodies, they can cause a process of eutrophication, which leads previously healthy lakes or rivers to become choked with algae, severely depleting water-dissolved oxygen, resulting in the elimination of other forms of aquatic life.

Phosphates are commonly found in water following the use of fertilisers and detergents. They can also come from domestic sewage and are a major source of water pollution. Like nitrates, phosphates encourage the growth of algae.

There has been a huge increase in littering since the beginning of the pandemic in March of last year, with the dumping of PPE a significant contributory factor. A survey published in January of this year by the Irish Business Against Litter group showed a dramatic fall in the number of towns and cities deemed to be ‘clean’, with that number at its lowest level since 2007.

This year’s WaterBlitz is made possible through partnership with the Royal Bank of Canada as part of its ongoing commitment to local water quality.


How to take part

Anyone can register to be part of the WaterBlitz on the Earthwatch site and they will receive a free testing kit in the post. Over the four days in May, they can test the water as many times as they like and input their results on the Freshwater Watch app.  Earthwatch will then compile a report from the data collected that will give a picture of our local waterways. This report will be sent to all volunteers.


Dr. Susan Hegarty, Project Lead said: 

“The WaterBlitz is an exciting opportunity for people to get involved in protecting the water quality of their local areas. Over the weekend of the Waterblitz, we will get a snapshot of the quality of water in rivers, streams and lakes in Dublin, at a scale that is impossible without the input of the general public.”

Prof. Fiona Regan, Director of the DCU Water Institute said:

“The first WaterBlitz in 2019 showed us that so many of our waterways are polluted with nutrients and litter. With people spending more time outdoors, there is a growing interest in the water quality of the local lakes, rivers, and streams. 

The health of our waterways is vital to our own health and initiatives like the WaterBlitz help us understand what is happening to them and how we can best protect and preserve them.”


About DCU Water Institute

The DCU Water Institute is a centre of excellence in water research. It works in partnership with stakeholders across academia, industry, agency and society in its research to develop solutions to national and global water-related problems.

It specialises in technology developments across science, engineering and computer science domains with strong communications focus and policy and business drivers. These areas are reflected in its academic members, who come from all five faculties of DCU.


About Earthwatch and the WaterBlitz

Earthwatch’s mission is to engage people worldwide in scientific field research and education to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment.

The WaterBlitz is a FreshWater Watch activity for the whole community. Members of the public can sign up to receive a free water testing kit and become citizen scientists by testing a water body local to them. The data collected by hundreds of people over this same time period gives a comparable snapshot of water health within a region

The WaterBlitz will run in Ireland, the UK (in the Thames Valley and Bristol Avon catchment areas) France, Luxembourg, Italy and Sweden.