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Water quality

River quality

The Government has set targets that 98% of the rivers on the Island should achieve fair and above quality measured by biological and chemical monitoring.

Monitoring carried out since 1995 has shown compliance with these targets.

Water Pollution Act

In order for the river quality to be maintained and possibly improved in the face of increased developmental pressures, it is necessary to exercise controls over the discharges to our rivers.

This requirement has been recognised for some time and, as a result, the Water Pollution Act (1993) was fully enacted during early 2005. This enabled the issuing of licences for discharges of trade and sewage effluent, the taking of legal proceedings for discharging effluent without or in breach of the conditions of a licence, and the provision for setting regulations for preventing pollution.

River pollution incidents

Since 1996 river pollution incidents have been collated by the Government Laboratory. In 2004 this duty was passed to the Environment Protection Unit (EPU) with the appointment of an Environmental Protection Officer with special responsibility for water pollution issues. At the start of 2010, the Government Laboratory Freshwater Biologist took over this role as a combined post of Freshwater Biologist / Environmental Protection Officer within EPU and in 2010 the controlling Department changed from the Department of Local Government and the Environment (DLGE) to the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA).

The last river pollution incidents report/summary for the Isle of Man was produced in 2004 and summarized pollution trends from 1997 to 2003 inclusive and provided an in-depth analysis of pollution incidents on the Island during the calendar year 2003, available on the right. The current 2011 report follows a similar format to that one and, indeed, all the previous reports produced annually from 1997 onwards to aid comparison. This current, updated version (also available on the right) summarises pollution trends from 1997 to 2011 while providing a detailed analysis of pollution incidents reported during 2011. Similar to all previous years, river pollution incidents were reported by Government employees, members of the public, police, MHKs and conservation groups. Information on the follow-up measures taken in response to pollution incidents has been included. These reports provide a basis for a water pollution archive which together with the river quality surveys/annual reports help to indicate any changes in river water quality.

During 2011, 48 pollution incidents were reported. Of these 20 separate individual incidents were 'substantiated' following investigation. Several of these substantiated incidents required multiple repeated visits to ensure the polluter was taking sufficient mitigation measures to stop further pollutions and for the Protection Officer to clean up polluted sites and/or renew protective measures such as booms and oil absorbent mats, etc. For instance during 2011, just 3 different substantiated pollution incidents required over 25 separate site visits between them before the river sites were sufficiently protected and left in a state where they could recover. The remaining 28 incidents were 'unsubstantiated' (category 4). Of the substantiated incidents, 2 were classed as 'significant' (category 2) and 18 were classed as 'minor' (Category 3).

Although from 2000 to 2003 the number of substantiated pollution incidents appeared to fall, this was then followed by a general steady rise of incidents year on year, with the exception of 2007, before reaching a peak in 2008 (Table 1 and Fig. 1). This was followed by a sharp decline in reported pollutions year on year, until eventually, in 2011 levels were similar to 2003. Undoubtedly this latter sharp decline witnessed since 2008 may reflect changes in the Island’s economic activity. Throughout the 14 year period, the vast majority of incidents were low severity in the minor category. There has been a general decline in the numbers of significant incidents from 2000 until 2010.

Table 1. Trends in categorisation of pollution incidents 1997 to 2011

Year Substantiated incidents Minor Incidents (Cat. 3) Significant incidents (Cat. 2 Major incidents (Cat. 1)
1997   14   13   0   1
1998   14   9   5   0
1999   24   21   2   1
2000   39   24   14   1
2001   31   24   7   0
2002   29   22   6   1
2003   25   22   2   1
2004   29   27   2   0
2005   39   35   3   1
2006   43   43   0   0
2007   33   32   1   0
2008   49   46   0   3
2009   30   29   1   0
2010   25   17   8   0
2011   20   18   2   0

Figure 1. Pollution incidents 1997 to 2011

Pollution incidents 1997 to 2011

This information and these reports are published as part of DEFA’s commitment to providing quality information on the state of the Island’s environment and the protection of freshwater fisheries. These reports in conjunction with existing river monitoring is enabling trends in river quality to be identified.

For further information, please contact +44 1624 685885 or email:

Bathing water monitoring

Sea water sampling following the procedure set out in the 1976 European Directive on Bathing Water (76/160) is carried out at 19 beach locations throughout the island.

The samples are subjected to microbiological analysis for faecal indicator organisms the results from which allow the water to be categorised in to "poor", "good" and "excellent" qualities. These results are updated weekly on 20 occasions between May and September and they are displayed at prominent locations near the beaches in order to inform beach users.

Recent trends have shown improvements in quality at those beaches in the East and South where sewage discharges have been removed and connected to the IRIS scheme for treatment at the new Meary Veg sewage treatment works.

The location of the sampling beaches, proximity of sewage outfalls and levels of treatment given to the sewage can be seen as follows:

Sampling beachNational grid referenceNearest sewage outfallTreatment level
Douglas (Summerhill) SC 3925 7720 Transferred to IRIS Full
Douglas (Central) SC 3884 7685 Transferred to IRIS Full
Douglas (Broadway) SC 3846 7631 Transferred to IRIS Full
Laxey SC 4421 8356 300m North East None
Ramsey SC 4552 9453 1600m North None
Peel SC 2439 8447 250m North East None
Port Erin SC 1942 6897 Transferred to IRIS Full
Port St Mary SC 2122 6814 Transferred to IRIS Full
Castletown SC 2710 6762 Transferred to IRIS Full
Deryhaven SC 2866 6734 Transferred to IRIS Full
Kirk Michael (Balleira) SC 3131 9144 100m North West Full
Port Soderick SC 3474 7267 None  
Bay-ny-Carrickey SC 2215 6880 Transferred to IRIS Full
Jurby SC 3522 9981 150m North West Full
Fenella (Peel) SC 2414 8444 750m round Island None
Garwick SC 4353 8138 300m South East None
Port Grenaugh SC 3157 7047 1800m East Full
Port Lewaigue SC 4696 9306 180m North East Full
Kirk Michael (Glen Wyllin) SC 3091 9075 780m north West Full

For further information, please contact +44 1624 685885 or email:

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