Radio broadcast shines light on GWS source protection projects

With 22nd March marking World Water Day, Shannonside Northern Sound FM hosted a special, outside broadcast at Crosserlough GWS, as part of a full-day event showcasing how the group water scheme and the local community have been working together to protect water quality.

Crosserlough GWS sits just outside the town of Kilnaleck in Co. Cavan, and is one of the schemes partaking in the integrated source protection planning and mitigation actions project that has been funded by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (DHLGH); and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM).

Blessed with glorious spring sunshine, the event kicked off with a visit from the local national school, with pupils given a tour of the water treatment plant. Barry Deane, NFGWS CEO, and Ted Massey, Senior Inspector with DAFM, were the first guests on Shannonside Northern Sound FM, discussing the ambition of the drinking water source protection project and the role the farming sector can have in protecting water quality.

Pesticide training

Meanwhile, local farmers gathered on a nearby farm to learn about best practices when applying pesticides, a contaminant of concern for many water bodies in the Cavan region. The pesticide awareness course — delivered by Teagasc’s Support and Advisory Programme (ASSAP) and the Local Authority Waters Programme (LAWPRO), in partnership with the group water scheme — had over 20 in attendance and included a practical demonstration, emphasising the importance of weather conditions, low drift nozzles and step-back areas, among other factors.

Multiple farm walks took place during the day in the GWS catchment, attended by farmers and staff from other group water schemes in the locality. NFGWS source protection officer, Patrick McCabe, showcased practical examples of mitigation measures that had been implemented in critical source areas on farms. Patrick explained the scientific reasoning behind their implementations, reiterating the importance of ‘the right measure in the right place.’

Reflecting on his experience of the event, Ted Massey said:

‘One thing that has really struck me is the sense of pride felt by farmers involved in the project and their willingness to engage. They see themselves as contributing very positively to the community and to drinking water source protection.’

Barry Deane (NFGWS), Michael Campbell (Crosserlough GWS), Ted Massey (DAFM), and Martin Briody (Crosserlough GWS) in conversation at the pesticide awareness training event.

Radio interviews

As Shannonside Northern Sound FM’s outside broadcast rolled on, more guests joined presenters Paul Carrington and Johnny O’Keefe to discuss the importance of protecting water, not just in relation to human health but also in regard to the potential co-benefits for biodiversity and climate action.

Representatives from Corracreigh GWS (Co. Roscommon), Erne Valley GWS (Co. Cavan) and Stranooden GWS (Co. Monaghan) spoke about their respective group water scheme’s source protection efforts. Personnel from LAWPRO and ASSAP also brought their expertise to the on-air discussion.

Minister of State, Malcolm Noonan TD, appeared on the station’s afternoon show alongside a very special guest, Crosserlough NS pupil, Isabella, and her teacher, Siobhán Clarke.

Isabella had recently given a fantastic presentation to her class on gardening for biodiversity and the importance of protecting insects and pollinators. She spoke on air about the dangers of pesticides and, during the discussion, Isabella and Minister Noonan discovered they had the same favourite flower: the dandelion.

Minister Noonan said:

Young people like Isabella give me such hope at a time when we sometimes feel quite a lot of despair, particularly around water, biodiversity and climate. The more I go in and talk to schoolchildren, the more I learn from them and am inspired by them.

Speaking about the event and the important of the River Basin Management Plan 2022–2027, Minister Noonan remarked:

I think it’s critically important that our water quality improves over the next decade and I think that today, World Water Day, highlights the need to get all of our waters into good ecological status.

Minister Noonan commended the work of the GWS sector in this regard and its overall efforts to provide potable water to members:

I have great admiration for what group water schemes do. They’re voluntary people working to develop good quality drinking water for their rural communities right across the country. It’s fantastic to see the work they’re doing for biodiversity, in particular, and for reducing pesticide use.

Community engagement

Initiatives such as Crosserlough GWS’s World Water Day event are critical for encouraging greater community engagement and educating others in the sector about what can be achieved. Speaking in Crosserlough, NFGWS senior development officer, Jean Rosney explained that:

‘Source protection is a critical first step in the process of water safety planning. The learnings from this project will be replicated across the country. These are practical examples of mitigation actions that are being implemented on the ground and it’s all about learning from this process.’

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.