Thinking outside the box: Meath Hill GWS engagement efforts

Meath Hill GWS has taken a novel approach to enhancing levels of engagement among its membership. The County Meath scheme provides drinking water to over 350 households and businesses, and has a strong track record of involving the local community in its operational efforts.

Across the 2022 summer months, the GWS began a campaign to grow its contact database and explore new avenues for keeping in touch; a topic which is especially pertinent in light of the newly revised Drinking Water Directive’s emphasis on the provision of information to consumers.

Communication channels

In April, the GWS launched a competition which gave members a chance to enter a draw for a two €200 supermarket vouchers. A letter detailing the competition was circulated to every household along with their AGM notices. Members were asked to simply provide their contact details in a template entry form in order to be eligible for the prize.

The GWS was very happy with the response levels, which saw 30% of households return email and phone contact details — an impressive conversion rate for such a concept. It hopes to run a similar activation in advance of next year’s AGM.

In conjunction with the competition, the group water scheme set up a private Facebook group. Members can easily click to apply to join the group, which has the GWS committee member, Tom Lynch, set up as administrator.

Around 80 members have joined since its establishment. The GWS regularly updates the group with relevant news and information on water quality results. Speaking about its success to date, Tom said there has been a very positive response and described the group as ‘a very handy system for instant communication.’

Source protection

Meath Hill GWS has also been working with those living in its borewell zone of contribution (ZOC) to protect water quality.

Speaking about its source protection efforts, Tom said:

We drafted a letter to all homeowners/farmers within the ZOC, advising them of the importance of protecting our valuable water source.

We included a questionnaire aimed at creating awareness regarding sewage, slurry spreading, fertiliser use and weedkiller use etc. We also included a Department information document on septic tank requirements.

Over the course of two months, the GWS visited each household and collected the completed survey. Its findings presented important data on what’s happening within the area. The GWS successfully secured agreement from all involved that a registered waste disposal contractor be employed by the group water scheme to carry out a biannual desludging of septic tanks in the ZOC.

The desludging programme will begin during 2023 and the GWS has pledged to subsidise the cost for members.

Water school of the year

As featured in the spring edition of 2022’s Rural Water News, the GWS held a special, Walking for Water event with local St Brigid’s National School to mark World Water Day in March.

There is no doubt that the value of water is high on the agenda among the pupils as the school went on to win ‘Water School of the Year’ at this year’s national Green School Awards. By investing time and effort into engaging with people of all ages in the community, Meath Hill GWS is a prime example of how group water schemes can ensure sustainability and a greater appreciation among membership of the role everyone has to play in protecting water and the environment.

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.