Main authors: Donnacha Doody and Rachel Cassidy 
Editor: Jane Brandt
Source document: “Quick scan” for basic information on case studies, governance structures & multi- actor platforms. FAIRWAY Internal Report, 2017

1. General context

Starting in March 2017, the Agri-Food and Bioscience Institute (AFBI) will be working on a €4.6 million INTERREG VA funded ‘Source to Tap’ (StT) project ( aimed at reducing the impact of landuse on drinking water in the Derg and Erne Catchment.

The StT project will address both forestry and agriculture, however the main focus is on mitigating loss of MCPA, sediment and DOC from agricultural land in the catchment The StT project is led by NIWater (Northern Ireland Water Utility company) and partners including AFBI, Irish Water (Republic of Ireland Water Utility company), University of Ulster (UU), The Rivers Trust (TRT) and East Border Regions (EBR). This will be a 5 year project aimed at reducing the risks posed to drinking water from MCPA and Colour/Turbidity in the Derg and Erne catchments. During the project, a farm incentive scheme will be implemented on a cross border basis and will incentivise farmers to take-up measures to mitigate MCPA and colour/turbidity arising from farms in the Derg Catchment. The scheme will be delivered by dedicated TRT catchment officers who will be responsible for community engagement and knowledge exchange within the catchment. AFBI and UU’s role in the StT project is to monitor and evaluate improvement in water quality arising from the implementation of the farm incentive scheme and to complete an UKWIR cost-benefits assessment. The UKWIR framework provides a standardised process by which to quantify the benefits (and dis-benefits) resulting from the implementation of the farm incentive scheme in the catchment. The monitoring and evaluation will be carried out in the Derg, where the full incentive scheme will be implemented (Treatment Catchment), while in the nearby Finn Catchment no incentive scheme will be implemented, (Control Catchment). These catchments will be monitored for discharge and water quality before, during and after the implementation of the scheme for a 3.5 year period starting in 1st quarter of 2018.

2. The particular case of Derg catchment and its role in FAIRWAY

The Derg catchment (area 552 km2), is located in the north west of Ireland, spanning the border between Northern Ireland (NI) and the Republic of Ireland (RoI).

CS07 Derg

The catchment is situated within a Temperate Oceanic climate zone, with average rainfall of 1000-1400mm yr-1 and a mean annual temperature of 9°C. The catchment is underlain by igneous and metamorphic bedrock, overlain by deposits of glacial till and fluvioglacial material. Groundwater productivity is relatively low, limited to the weathered near-surface zone and only for limited individual use. In the upper western reaches of the catchment land use is predominantly coniferous plantation and bogland with low intensity farming on poor pasture land. In the lower reaches intensification of land use for agricultural purposes is more prevalent with improved grasslands and complex cultivation patterns.

Raw drinking water is abstracted from surface water on the River Derg. The average abstraction is 16 ML day-1 with abstraction increasing up to 26 ML day-1 on occasion, to serve the population of Derry City and Strabane District Council. Northern Ireland Water (NIWater) is the sole provider of drinking water in Northern Ireland, supplying 560 ML of clean water a day for almost 1.8 million people.

NIWater and Northern Ireland Environmental Agency (NIEA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) implement a comprehensive monitoring program of water quality in the catchment. The Derg WTW and Supply System Risk Assessment carried out by NIWater 2015 identified two main threats to raw drinking water in the catchment.

  1. MCPA (herbicide) arising from the spraying of rushes (Juncus) on agricultural land. The need to remove rushes from agricultural land is being driven by farmers’ concerns over eligible land for the EU single farm payment. Increase in rush cover is being attributed to prolonged saturation of soil, lower stocking rates and lowered soil pH). 
  2. Colour/turbidity arising from peaty soils and eroded sediment from both forestry and agricultural land. Chlorination reactions with dissolved organic carbon (DOC) during the drinking water treatment process results in the production of toxic trihalomethanes.

The STt project aims to deliver:

  • a Catchment Management Plan; 
  • a Learning and Outreach Plan in the Derg Catchments through Source to Tap Project Catchment Officers to effect changes in attitude to protection of water quality and the water environment;
  • a cross border farm Incentive Scheme in selected sub-catchments within the Derg catchment, encouraging changes in current land management practices to reduce pesticide, colour, turbidity and diffuse pollution pressures, thereby improving overall water quality;
  • UK Water Industry Research (UKWIR) cost benefits assessments of the Farm Incentive Scheme.

3. Mitigation measures used

The farm incentive scheme will be a voluntary initiative that goes above and beyond the statutory requirements that already apply to farms in the context of the EU Water Framework Directive, Drinking Water Directive and Cross Compliance guidelines. The Farm Incentive Scheme commences in summer 2018 and includes mitigation measures such as:

  • technical advice/ education
  • application of herbicides with weed lickers
  • development of a farm water safety plan
  • riparian buffer strip
  • fencing of riparian areas
  • herbicide substitution
  • biobeds
  • stock fencing.

During the development of the scheme stakeholders from policy, science, advisory and the agri-food industry were consulted to identify the most suitable measures.

The case study also has ambitions for a national scope. Both NIWater and Irish Water are using the StT project as a pilot to evaluate the cost effectiveness of using a catchment based approach to address drinking water problems in selected catchment across the island. NIWater already have a national initiative called Sustainable Catchment Area Management Planning (SCAMP), which is implementing a catchment based approach on a limited basis in Northern Ireland. If the StT project is successful there is potential for it to be implemented on a wider basis.

4. Current water governance system

Actors and stakeholders involved in water governance and their roles

Stakeholders are engaged in the Derg Case Study at a number of different levels

  • The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have overall responsibility for the implementation of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) in the catchment. Through these WFD structures, there are regional catchment officers who work with stakeholders on the ground.  The Department of Agriculture (NI & RoI) are responsible for the implementation of the Nitrates Directive Regulation and cross compliance regulations and for reporting on their implementation to the EU. NIEA & the EPA are responsible for the water quality monitoring and reporting to the EU on the WFD.
  • The StT project is a voluntary initiative, which will build on the exiting statutory requirements of the EU Water Framework Directive, EU Nitrates Directive and EU Drinking Water Directive. The StT project will be overseen by an expert advisory group of cross border stakeholders such, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture, Farmers Unions, Local Authorities, National Parks and Wildlife Services etc. (The expert advisory group is currently being established).
  • NIWater already implement a voluntary catchment initiative called SCAMP through which they engage local and regional NGOs, community groups, farming groups and regional government stakeholders in the implementation of measures to improve drinking water quality in selected catchments. At national level the SCAMP Initiative links with the Water Catchment Partnership (WCP). The WCP is a forum that brings together representatives of Ulster Farmers Union, Northern Ireland Water, Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise, to discuss and coordinate activities related to the protection of drinking water in Northern Ireland, with a particular focus on pesticides.

Water quality control processes

Decision making in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are largely through a centralized top down approach coordinated by a number of governmental organizations.

In Northern Ireland the decisions related to water quality and measures are made by the Department of Agricultural, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) with input from their umbrella organizations such as NIEA, AFBI, NIWater and College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Agriculture (CAFRE). NIEA are responsible for the water quality monitoring and reporting related to the WFD.

In the Republic of Ireland these decision are taken jointly by the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine, Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, The Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, and their umbrella organisations such as Teagasc, EPA and the National Parks and Wildlife Services. The EPA are responsible for the water quality monitoring and reporting related to the WFD.

Within the context of this case study there are two tiers related to water quality objectives.

  • At national level NIEA and the EPA are responsible for water quality monitoring for the WFD. However, neither monitor for pesticides in surface waters unless on a target basis in catchment of concern. In addition, both NIWater and Irish Water have a responsibility to monitor drinking water sources for contaminants of concern (such as pesticides) at water extraction points and report the finding to the NIEA and EPA respectively.  The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine (DAFM) is responsible for carrying out farm inspection in Northern Ireland while in the Republic of Ireland this role is performed by NIEA.
  • The StT project being implemented within the Derg catchment aims to contribute to achieving the water quality targets set at national level. However, the Land Incentive Scheme will be implemented by farmers on a voluntary basis with decisions on the selection and targeting of these measures on individual farmer made by the farmer in-conjunction with the StT catchment officers. When farmers agreed to take part in the Land Incentive Scheme, it will be mandatory for them to develop and implement a Water Management Plan, in consultation with the catchment officers. As part of the StT project in the Derg catchment AFBI will be responsible for conducting a high frequency monitoring program for MCPA and turbidity in the catchment over the next 3.5 years. The Rivers Trust will be responsible for conducting farm inspections to ensure farmers have implemented the agreed measures prior to receiving payments through the land incentive scheme.

The StT project will be voluntary and as such there will be no enforcement element included in the project. Any enforcement activities that occur in the catchment during the life time of this study will be related to DAFM or NIEA enforcement responsibilities and not associated with the StT project activities.

Engagement and multi-actor platforms

There is already a basic multi-actor platform (MAP) established and on-going engagement in the catchment. Prior to the StT project a low level of engagement with farmers was carried out in the catchment by NIWater in relation to pesticide usage. This included farm visits by a farm advisor, demonstration events and dissemination of leaflets The implementation of the StT project brings together key stakeholders as either part of the StT project team or as part of the expert advisory group and will cover a broad spectrum of stakeholders from science, policy, agri-food, and advisory from both governmental and the NGO sector. The StT project will also have significant engagement with farmers through implementation of the Land Incentive Scheme and more widely with catchment stakeholders through engagement event such as citizen science training workshops, school visits and open days. In addition, there are also existing structures as such the SCAMP initiatives and the Water Catchment Partnership which have been established for a number of years and which can be incorporated into the MAP.

The FAIRWAY MAP will be built on the StT community engagement program, land Incentive Scheme, StT project team and steering committee, the SCAMP initiative and Water Catchment Partnership, each of which have been explained and the participants detailed in the text in previous sections. However, the activities of the FAIRWAY MAP will be constraint somewhat by the priority to first achieve the objectives of the StT project. Data/information collection for FAIRWAY will have to take into consideration and be coordinated with data collection/activities of the StT project. This is primarily to avoid stakeholder fatigue but also to ensure the objectives of the StT are not impacted on.


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