DAFM provides funding to target agricultural pressures in GWS drinking water catchments

The National Federation of Group Water Schemes (NFGWS) has secured funding of €500,000 from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) to implement targeted drinking water source protection actions in group water scheme catchments as part of the NFGWS source protection strategy.

Funding has also been sought from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage to commence the development of Integrated Source Protection Plans on community-owned group water schemes under the Multi-annual Rural Water Programme.

This approach is seen as a ground-breaking move towards protecting drinking water sources in advance of the development of a new agri-environmental scheme under CAP and the enforcement of the new recast Drinking Water Directive.

Drinking water sources are coming under increased pollutant pressures as a result of agricultural practices, insufficient wastewater treatment and domestic pesticide use among other causes. Many contaminants pose a danger to aquatic life and require expensive treatment in order to meet drinking water standards and eliminate threats to public health.

Integrated Source Protection Plans are scientifically based, scheme specific plans which provide a framework for communities to work together to help protect or improve their local drinking water source.

Following the DAFM announcement, Chairperson of the NFGWS (and dairy farmer), Vincent Farrelly, said ‘This funding will build on the groundwork laid by the NFGWS Source Protection Pilot Projects to date, which has captured the public imagination with initiatives such as the award winning ‘Let It Bee’ project. The pilots have demonstrated how communities — including farmers — are willing to play their part in changing their practices to reverse negative impacts on drinking water sources and the wider environment.'

The funding will be focused on seven group water schemes catchments that fall within, or close to, current Priority Areas for Action defined within Ireland’s 2nd River Basin Management Plan. These catchments are largely impacted by agricultural pressures and the funding will help implement targeted measures, such as the creation of smart buffer zones in targeted areas along water courses, the promotion of alternatives to pesticide use, and the roll-out of educational initiatives highlighting the impacts of poor agricultural practices etc.

Many of these measures will also help reverse biodiversity loss and promote climate action within each catchment. Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD, commented ‘I am delighted to announce this funding for the implementation of targeted drinking water source protection actions. My Department and the agricultural sector recognise the importance of protecting drinking water sources while acknowledging agriculture has a key role to play in reducing any potential losses from both nutrient and pesticides.’