Survey shows changing attitudes to pesticide use in Roscommon and Mayo

With mounting evidence of pesticide contamination of drinking water sources, damage to wider eco-systems and a biodiversity crisis, a National Federation of Group Water Schemes (NFGWS) survey suggests that most householders that currently use pesticides are prepared to rethink their use in order to protect the environment.

The survey was carried out as part of a group water scheme led education drive, which took place in national schools throughout Roscommon and in Newport Co Mayo alongside the ‘I’ve planted a tree and my garden is pesticide free’ initiative.

The initiative — which is part of the NFGWS Drinking Water Source Protection Pilot Project — saw children bring the message home about the link between the protection of drinking water sources and the wider natural environment, and the dangers of pesticides to both.

The survey garnered a good response and presented some interesting findings. Presumably after reading information material taken home by their children, 96% of respondents agreed that pesticide usage can negatively impact water quality and biodiversity.

While 69% of respondents asserted that they normally use pesticides in their gardens, 42% expressed their intention to reduce usage, while 35% said that they plan to stop using pesticides altogether.

Interestingly, for those deciding to no longer use these products or who are planning to reduce their usage, 42% said their primary motivation was to protect bees and other pollinators, with 25% citing the protection of their water source as the highest motivating factor.

Reacting to the survey’s findings, Joe Gallagher, the NFGWS representative on the National Pesticides and Drinking Water Action Group, said that ‘As a society, we must rethink our attitude around the concept of “unwanted” vegetation.' While acknowledging that this will take time, he added:

The survey illustrates the importance of providing an alternative strategy for controlling unwanted vegetation and ‘pests’ to those who use these products and the need to persuade people that a garden buzzing with biodiversity is far preferable to an overly tidy and sterile garden that is a desert for wildlife.

Noel Carroll, general manager of Mid-Roscommon GWS said: ‘Thank you to all the schools that participated. It is encouraging to see that the efforts of group water schemes to raise awareness about the dangers of pesticides is succeeding in educating the public and changing behaviours. This will have the dual reward of helping to protect our drinking water sources while also benefitting biodiversity. ’

Catherine Finlay, Roscommon County Council, and Noel Carroll, general of manager of Mid-Roscommon GWS, at the launch of the ‘I’ve planted a tree and my garden is pesticide free’ initiative.

Catherine Finlay, Senior Executive Officer, Water Services, Roscommon County Council, said: ’Roscommon County Council is delighted that the message to reduce the use of pesticides in our gardens and communities, to help protect the bees and in turn protect the sources of our drinking water, is being supported through the children in our schools. We thank the teachers, the parents and the schoolchildren for participating in the survey. We will continue the good work on this project with our group water scheme members who are working hard to share better practices in households and on the farm.’

Further discussion on the topic of pesticides in drinking water sources can be read in the latest edition of the Rural Water News magazine here.