6 ways farmers can reduce the risk of polluting waterways

Farmers across the country are being encouraged to follow a 6-point plan in order to reduce the risk of polluting waterways by Inland Fisheries Ireland.

An appeal has been made to farmers to remain vigilant during the summer months when harvesting silage and spreading slurry, in order to avoid water pollution and the loss of nutrients to water.

Eight out of the 31 separate fish kills recorded last year across the country were directly attributable to agricultural activities, Inland Fisheries Ireland added.

Out of these eight incidents, three occurred in Co. Kerry alone – while just a single incident each was reported in counties Cork, Galway, Meath, Kilkenny and Sligo.

Fish killed in these incidents included brown trout, atlantic salmon, eel, stone loach and stickleback.


As agriculture was the largest identifiable and avoidable attributing factor to fish kills last year, Inland Fisheries Ireland reminded farmers of the importance of managing their silage operations correctly.

Silage operations are ongoing all summer and silage effluent has the potential to cause devastating pollution in streams and rivers, it added.

Silage effluent is a significant polluting substance, starving fish and invertebrate life of oxygen, resulting in potentially massive fish kills if it enters a watercourse, the organisation warned.

With some rivers low during summertime with little dilution capacity, the effect of a small leak can cause huge damage, it noted.

6-point plan to ensure good farmyard management and to reduce the risk of pollution:
  • Use round bales as the most environmentally friendly way to store silage;
  • If a silage pit is being used, ensure it is properly sealed to prevent leakage from under the slab;
  • Carry out slurry spreading in dry weather and never when heavy rain is forecast;
  • Never spread slurry close to a watercourse, be aware of the slope of land to the watercourse;
  • Do not clean tanks beside any watercourse, stream or a river;
  • Do not allow any effluent or washings to enter any rainwater gully.

Inland Fisheries Ireland is grateful to the farming community for their continued consideration and vigilance, the organisation’s Head of Operations, Dr. Greg Forde, said.

“Good farmyard management can help to prevent accidental runs of polluting substances and protect the local environment.

“This will have a significant and lasting positive impact on valuable wild fish populations in an area,” he concluded.

During 2016, Inland Fisheries Ireland carried out over 22,000 environmental inspections across industrial, forestry, engineering, water treatment and wind farm sites.

Out of this total number of inspection, 1,553 were reportedly carried out across farmyards to help identify any risks and prevent damage to the local aquatic habitat.