The Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012 provides for the introduction of a registration and inspection system for domestic wastewater treatment systems (DWWTSs), including septic tanks and similar systems.  It was introduced to address the European Court of Justice ruling against Ireland in October 2009, and even more importantly, to protect ground and surface water quality (particularly drinking water sources) from the risks posed by malfunctioning systems.

Registration of domestic wastewater treatment systems

The registration fee payable is €50. The fee is intended to cover the costs to the water services authorities of administering the registers and of managing the risk-based inspections to be carried out.  The legislation provides that those liable to register must have done so on or before 1st February 2013.  However, registration remains open and householders who have not yet registered should do so as soon as possible - there are no late payment fees.   It is an offence under the 2012 Act for a householder not to register and the penalty, on conviction, is a fine of up to €5,000.   

The new legislation has been framed to minimise the impact on householders and there will be no inspection charge.  The basic standard to be met by all domestic wastewater treatment systems is that they do not cause a risk to human health or the environment.  Regulations also provide for the proper operation and maintenance of treatment systems and set out de-sludging requirements

To Register your septic tanks and other types of treatment and disposal systems for domestic waste water go to Protect our Water

National Inspection Plan 2013

The Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012 requires the EPA to produce a National Inspection Plan.  The Plan outlines the approach to be taken with respect to inspections.  The Plan sets out a two pronged approach, focusing on raising owner awareness and responsibility, and on the inspection process. 

Guidance on Cork County Council's implementation of the National Inspection Plan

Public Awareness Campaign

The first strand of the Inspection Plan is a national public awareness campaign to promote best practice relating to the operation and maintenance of DWWTS's. The campaign will be rolled out by Water Services Authorities prior to the initiation of targeted risk based inspections.

This campaign will inform DWWTS owners of the role they can play to protect their health, that of their neighbours, and the environment. Owners will be made aware of the simple steps they can take to properly operate and maintain their system as well as raising awareness as to the health implications where a DWWTS isn't working properly. The campaign should ensure that those who are responsible for DWWTSs are provided with authoritative and accessible advice so that they can protect their health and that of their family, neighbours, and the environment. 

Inspections of Septic Tanks

The second strand of the plan involves carrying out risk based inspections. 
All areas of the country are liable to inspection, with priority being given to areas where water quality (particularly drinking water) is most at risk from pollution by on-site waste water treatment systems.  The Plan contains details of risk criteria used and the minimum number of inspections (per county) to be carried out in its first year of implementation.  

Inspections are being carried out to make sure that DWWTSs do not pose a risk to human health or the environment.  Owners of DWWTSs are obliged to properly operate and maintain their systems as required under the Water Services Act, 2007 and Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012.

Further information is available from the Department of Housing, Planning, Community & Local Government, the Environmental Protection Agency and on the Protect our Water website.

Water Quality Section

The Water Laboratory at Inniscarra was established in 1980. It comprises chemical, microbiological and biological laboratories. A quality system based on ISO17025 Standard is ongoing. The laboratory implements the provisions of a number of acts and  regulations and is responsible for the following areas:

  • Comprehensive monitoring of public and private drinking water supply schemes.
  • Implementing a protocol with water services departments and Southern Health Board regarding exceedances in drinking water, monitoring results, conducting follow-up investigations and corrective actions.
  • Compilation of water quality monitoring returns to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  • Monitoring and administration of the Blue Flag scheme and designated bathing areas.
  • Monitoring of rivers under Salmonoid, Phosphorus and Abstraction Regulations.
  • Monitoring of lakes under Phosphorus and Abstraction Regulations.

Please select any of the following for more information on Public Drinking Water:

County Cork Public Water Supply Check Data, Jan-May 2014

County Cork Public Water Supply Check Data, June-Nov 2014

Drinking Water Guidance Booklet

Drinking Water Regulations SI278 2007

County Cork Public Water Supply Check Data, April-June 2016

Public Water Supply Monitoring Results 2015, Audit Data

Public Water Supply Monitoring Results Jan-Mar 2016

Public Water Supply Monitoring Results Oct-Dec 2015

Private wells are not regulated under the European Communities (Drinking Water) Regulations 2014.

A private well is a well that is privately owned and provides water to a single house and does not provide water to the public through a commercial or social activity.

Irish Water has no role to play in abstractions relating to private water supplies.  Water charges do not apply to private well owners so long as they are not also connected to a public water supply.

This means that you are responsible for the quality of your well water; however, your local authority is responsible for providing advice and guidance in relation to the protection of your supply. 

It is important that everyone is aware of the risks posed to water coming from private wells.  Just because the water comes from underground does not mean it is ok to drink at all times.

Further information on protecting your private well is available from the Environment Protections Agency here

Cork County Council is committed to promoting best practice in the use of pesticides to protect drinking water.

RESPONSIBLE handling and use of pesticides by YOU can prevent accidental contamination of drinking water supplies.

Advice is available from Cork County Council in the following areas:

Farmers & Other Professional Users

Gardeners & Household Users

Herbicide Use in Grasslands

Protecting Drinking Water from Pesticides

You can view an interactive map of and get further information on the beaches in County Cork here.

To have your say:

To make sure that we improve water quality throughout the country the Government has produced a Draft River Basin Management Plan for the period 2018 to 2021. This plan shows the actions that the different sectors, organisations , communities & state bodies will take to protect Ireland's 4,832 water bodies at local, regional, & national level.
Before the plan becomes final the Government wants to hear your comments & concerns regarding water quality.
The attached booklets explain:
•       what is in the draft plan;
•       where you can get more information; &
•       how to share your views & concerns.
Please take the time to read this booklet & please do take part in the consultation process.
The closing date for submissions is 31st August 2017.

To view and download leaflets see below:

Draft River Basin Management Plan for Ireland 2018-2021 leaflet(English). Click here

Dréacht-Phlean Bainistíochta Abhantraí d'Eireann 2018-2021(As Gaeilge). Click here

Cork County Council Lab Technicians

The Wastewater Section is based at Inniscarra, Co. Cork, P31X738, and is comprised of Administrative and Scientific staff. The Laboratory is accredited to ISO17025, and is the longest accredited Local Authority Laboratory in Ireland (Scope of Accreditation ).

The Wastewater Laboratory is responsible for the following activities:

  • Monitoring & Administrative support to almost 150 Section 4 Wastewater discharges to waters
  • Investigation and resolution of water pollution complaints
  • On behalf of Irish Water & Water Services, monitoring public wastewater treatment plants and their environment, and private industrial/commercial discharges to sewer.

For information on public wastewater discharges, or private discharges to sewers, please contact Irish Water at 1850 278 278 or 


Section 4 Local Government (Water Pollution) Acts 1977 to 2007

Pursuant to Section 4 of the Local Government (Water Pollution) Acts 1977 to 2007, a licence is required for the discharge of trade effluent or sewage effluent to waters. Further information, including exempted discharges, is provided in the Guidance notes below.

The applicant is strongly encouraged to request a pre-application meeting with Environment staff to discuss the nature and scope of the information required. Please contact the Environment Directorate on (021) 4532700 or to arrange a meeting.


Click the following link for a  map of S4 locations

Click the following link for a Register of licences 

Useful Links:

Environmental Protection Agency Maps

National Parks & Wildlife Services

Geological Survey

Hydrometric Data System