The spatial impact of rural economic change on river water quality

C. O'Donoghue, C. Buckley, A. Chyzheuskaya, Stuart Green, P. Howley, S. Hynes, V. Upton, M. Ryan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This paper, using Ireland as a case study, examines the relationship between rural economic activities and river water quality. The stipulation from the EU water framework directive (WFD) that all surface waters in the EU must be of ‘good ecological status’ necessitates a quantitative understanding of the major determinants of water quality. Within this context, this paper combines a number of spatial datasets relating to agricultural, land use, residential and industrial activities, to examine the major economic influences on the ecological quality of water resources. It is hoped that providing a comprehensive understanding of the effect of a variety of economic activities that influence the ecological quality of water will be an important tool in the management of risk and will allow for more appropriate land use planning aimed at restoring and maintaining water quality as required by the WFD. Results indicate that the level of forestry, industrial activity, the intensity and type of agricultural activity and the type of wastewater treatment in an area are all critical factors affecting the quality of water resources. The model finds that relationship between agriculture and water quality improved over time during a period where there was substantial legislative measures and financial support to facilitate improved water quality.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105322
JournalLand Use Policy
Publication statusPublished - 2021

JEL classifications

  • o12 - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
  • o13 - "Economic Development: Agriculture; Natural Resources; Energy; Environment; Other Primary Products"


  • Agricultural activity
  • Ecological water quality
  • Water Framework Directive
  • agriculture
  • economic activity
  • environmental economics
  • land use
  • river water
  • rural economy
  • spatial analysis
  • water management
  • water quality
  • water resource
  • Ireland

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