GWS Excellence Awards winners in focus: Glencorrib GWS

Mike Donoghue, Pat Flood, Michael Garvey (former caretaker), Cathal Garvey (chairperson), Fionnuala Foy (manager), Tony Mohan (secretary), Michael Mellett (treasurer) and Brian Murphy (caretaker) accept Glencorrib GWS’s GWS Excellence Awards trophy.

A second GWS Excellence Awards flag in three years was a great achievement in itself for Glencorrib GWS, County Mayo, but to be declared the overall winner for ‘Quality Assurance & Water Safety Planning’ at September’s Rural Water Services Conference was something extra special.

‘We were all delighted but very surprised to hear that we had been singled out,’ says the GWS’s general manager, Fionnuala Foy.

‘We use the excellence awards application process as an annual audit system. It helps us to benchmark the standard we want to maintain and acts as a reminder of the priorities at hand. But, it’s the kind of thing that you don’t expect to win. So, we’re very honoured that it has been bestowed on us.’

Quality assurance has been the cornerstone of any well-run group water scheme for many years, with water safety planning now also hugely important in light of the new drinking water regulations. Glencorrib GWS is a perfect example of how good planning and foresight can help make the process a little easier.

Yearly plan

Every January, the board and Fionnuala discuss the budget and targets for the year ahead.

We have also put water quality on the agenda of every monthly board meeting. This means that all the board members are fully informed with the issues that arise and can input their opinion.’

Like many GWSs, the quality of the raw water has always been and continues to be a concern. Being a surface water (lake) source, the parameters change regularly and bring new challenges with them. This means that we always have to be focused on water quality and keep the measures in place to keep abreast of the changes.

For us, early detection means that we have a better chance of solving the problems that occur. Simply put, having a Quality Assurance system in place is a fundamental and crucial part of this. Without it, we would be operating in the dark.

Fionnuala explains how it is very much a team effort from source to kitchen tap.

Glanua, our DBO contractor, operates the water treatment plant. As part of this, data is reported live from the treatment plant and reservoir so that parameters such as chlorine dosing, turbidity and colour are recorded continuously and alarmed.

It is invaluable to have that safeguard in place and data available at all times. We have also increased the amount of water testing that we carry out. Previously, the group water scheme only monitored the chlorine but we now have extended our sampling regime.

When compiled with the council and contractor’s test results, it’s proving to be a useful comparison tool and is helping to build up a picture of the annual changes and identify correlations between different parameters. Going forward, it is hoped that there will be a bank of water quality data built up that can be referenced when making decisions.

Looking ahead, Fionnuala says:

‘The fundamental priority for the scheme’s future is to ensure a safe drinking water supply for the community it serves. The board works hard to safeguard that resource for future generations and to pass it on in the best condition possible. In the shorter term, it is all about solving the problems that arise and keeping abreast with new technologies and upgrades. We are very grateful for the support and advice we receive to help us to keep the water flowing.’

This article originally featured in the most recent edition of the Rural Water News magazine. To read the full edition and to sign up to our magazine mailing list, click here.