When Magheracloone GWS was crowned the overall winner of the ‘Biodiversity Enhancement’ category in the 2022 Group Water Scheme Excellence Awards, it was just deserts for all of its efforts in protecting the three lakes it depends upon for its drinking water supply.
The County Monaghan group water scheme abstracts from the Greaghlone and Comertagh lakes, with a third lake, Cornalara Lough feeding into Greaghlone. Since 2019, it has been working on an ambitious project to improve water quality within each lake.
By working with farmers in the locality, the GW installed 4.5km of fencing on farms in its catchment, creating vegetative smart buffer zones that slow down pollutant run-off and provide habitat and food for wildlife. It engaged the services of a consultant to soil sample all ground in its catchment and create nutrient management plans for each farmer.
‘We are proud that we as, a board, and community came together and agreed to provide alternative water sources for livestock. Without this, the project could not have developed’, said Magheracloone GWS secretary, Damien McEntee.
‘The focus on water protection was achieved at a time when farmers were not incentivised under regulation or by means of a scheme to provide marginal areas around the source. Therefore it shows a real investment in the ethos that is engraved in group water schemes, in that ownership of raw water quality was taken on board.’
As part of the project, the GWS ran a schools awareness programme, which attempted to encourage children to play their part in the initiative and understand how local biodiversity can influence water quality. A wildlife habitat is now in place at Greaghlone lake, as designed by pupils in the local Scoil Bhláithín Íosa.
The GWS committee also completes catchment walks within each of the source lakes on a weekly basis to monitor for invasive species through the use of a plant identifier app.
Magheracloone GWS committee member, Donna McEvoy, remembers how her former board colleague, John Duffy, had a long-held vision to fence off each of the three source lakes. She is delighted that the community has managed to actualise his dream and achieve even more:
‘Our work will hopefully be of even more importance in the long term, if we can bring about changes in the quality of raw water. It will hopefully bring focus to the mutual benefits between water quality, biodiversity and climate action. The riparian margins that were introduced act as a physical barrier around the source lakes and feeder streams but, as the areas planted grow and develop further, the physical image will help people to realise the connections that exist.’
These comments were echoed by GWS chairperson, Brendan Duffy, who hopes that this is the beginning of the community’s holistic approach to water quality management:
‘We hope that the scheme remains as a co-operative that is fully focused on protecting its three source lakes and their value; not only as a source of water but as a valued ecosystem and amenity area for the local community.’
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.