GWS Excellence Awards winners in focus: Crosserlough GWS

Crosserlough GWS chairperson, Seámus Galligan, and secretary, Michael Donohoe, beside a drinking water refill station installed by the GWS to increase community access to water and reduce the prevelance of single use plastics.

When Crosserlough GWS, County Cavan, was approached regarding its possible participation in the inter-department funded Integrated Source Protection Planning and Mitigation Actions project, it was an opportunity it grabbed with both hands.

Financial assistance is, of course, a major element of such a project but it has been the passion and commitment shown by Crosserlough GWS that has been key to its success. Over the past two years, it has worked tirelessly with everyone in the locality to bring about water quality improvements in its Graddum Lough source. Its efforts were justly rewarded with an overall ‘Community Engagement’ category win in the GWS Excellence Awards 2022.

Hard work

Speaking about the award win, the group water scheme’s secretary, Michael Donohoe, was praising of all involved:

To win an GWS Excellence Award for Crosserlough GWS feels brilliant. It is a reflection of all the hard work that was put in by the GWS committee members, led by our chairperson, Seamus Galligan.

The first step of its source protection project was to survey farms in critical source areas of the catchment and engage with farmers about the possibility of putting measures in place to protect water quality. Many were immediately open to the idea but others had some initial trepidation. However, continued efforts by the GWS committee eventually won their support and the committee worked closely with all farmers to assist in implementing targeted actions.

Community engagement can be difficult to achieve but, in this case, the people pushing the idea were trusted and so convincing of the importance of source protection. Once we got the first two people on board, the news soon filtered through that this work was going to benefit our water quality.

Crosserlough National School pupils attending the GWS World Water Day 2022 event. The GWS has worked closely with local schools to raise awareness about water quality and its links to biodiversity.

Raising awareness

Aside from the installation of physical measures, the GWS worked hard to spread awareness about water-friendly behaviour among its members. Each household was sent a leaflet on good and bad practices related to water quality. The GWS also provided pupils in three local primary schools with a native tree and education materials as part of the ‘I’ve planted a tree and my garden is pesticide free’ initiative. It sparked huge interest among the students, who were also given workshops on drinking water provision. Crosserlough National School was treated to a tour of the GWS treatment plant during a special World Water Day 2022 event, hosted by the group water scheme.

As part of the event, a pesticide awareness training course was delivered to farmers on the farm of GWS members. The public were invited to attend farm walks, showcasing implemented mitigation actions, and the GWS participated in local radio interviews to discuss its efforts.

Michael found the engagement with the local primary schools particularly satisfying:

They were so interested and eager to get involved. It’s vital to have the next generation be cognisant of water quality. They can also bring those important messages home to the rest of their family too.

As the project draws to close, the GWS is eager to continue the work it has started. It also hopes its increased exposure within the community will prove hugely beneficial in attracting new and diverse committee members.

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.