According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) there are over 4810 surface and groundwater bodies in Ireland. This includes over 500 groundwater bodies, 3200 rivers, 800 lakes, 200 transitional waters, and 110 coastal waters. Approximately 2900 (60%) of these waterbodies are monitored and the EPA publishes a full assessment of the condition of these waterbodies every three years. The latest assessment shows that although over half (54%) of our surface waters are in good or better ecological status this means that unfortunately nearly half (46%) are in unsatisfactory condition.
The European Communities (Good Agricultural Practice for Protection of Waters) regulations have been in place since 2006 which stipulates compulsory measures that farmers and landowners are required by law to adhere to. Despite such measures as having adequate slurry and soiled water storage, obeying closed periods, creating buffer margins, and monitoring weather conditions during manure spreading, it is recognised that more will need to be done in particular geographical areas to reverse the trend in declining water quality.
A crucial initiative aimed at improving water quality in Irish agriculture is the latest European Innovation Partnership (EIP); the Water EIP. This initiative receives €50 million in funding and will target farmers in specific areas across Ireland. The Water EIP will provide them with the opportunity to improve water quality in their local area through various financial supports.
ASSAP advisors will play a crucial role in assessing farms, identifying pressures, and advising farmers on implementing appropriate measures. The Water EIP will provide grants to farmers who voluntarily undertake measures that go beyond the standard regulatory requirements, such as water management plans, nitrogen efficiency improvements, riparian margins, and exclusion of livestock from watercourses.
The primary aim of the initiative is to trial measures with local farmers with a view to scaling these measures across the country in the future. It is hoped that this initiative will play a significant role in reversing the negative trends in water quality over the next decade.
Find your local ASSAP advisor and learn more about the Water EIP by clicking here.