Support of €60 million for an European Innovation Partnership (EIP) project to improve Ireland’s water quality at local, catchment and national levels has been announced today (Sunday, July 16).

Through the Water EIP project, the Local Authority Waters Programme (LAWPRO), Teagasc and Dairy Industry Ireland (DII) will work with farmers on an individual basis to improve water quality.

Providing €50 million in funding and technical assistance, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) expects to target 15,000 farmers in priority areas nationally.  

The support announced by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue is co-funded by the National Exchequer and the EU under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage will provide administrative support and funding of €10 million to the LAWPRO.

The project aims to improve water quality through:

  • The adoption of innovative practices in nutrient management;
  • The application of nature-based Natural Water Retention Measures (NWRM);
  • Other measures at farm level following the principles of Integrated Catchment Management;
  • Measures will be designed and targeted specifically to address local challenges.

Announcing the total funding of €60 million for the Water EIP project which will run until the end of 2027, Minister McConalogue said:

“The agri-food industry is working together to improve water quality. However, there is a need to recognise farmers that invest above and beyond regulatory requirements to address specific localised water quality issues.”

“This is the largest funding that my department has provided to a single EIP, recognising the importance of this project to enhancing sustainable agricultural practices and contributing in a significant way to improving water quality at a national level.”

EIP project

LAWPRO’s winning proposal will take a locally-based approach, combining farm-level actions with landscape features to improve water quality, Minister of State at the DAFM with responsibility for EIPs, Pippa Hackett said.

“The project will promote the adoption of innovative best practice in nutrient management and address a critical gap in measures to protect and restore water quality,” Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien added.

ICMSA: Govt want family dairy farms 'gone'.

The Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advisory Programme (ASSAP) has worked with farmers to identify areas on farms in need of action, head of department, Environment Knowledge Transfer at Teagasc, Pat Murphy said.

“The funding that will now be available to farmers through the Water EIP will help ensure that the right measure is put in the right place to minimise losses,” Murphy added.

“This collaboration with LAWPRO and Teagasc is a huge step up of our efforts and ambition that has been driven since our involvement with the ASSAP water programme,” chair of DII, Conor Ryan said.

Water quality

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently identified the areas where farms will likely have to reduce their application rate of organic manure nitrogen from 250kg N/ha to 220kg N/ha.

Following a review of water quality required under the Nitrates Directive, the EPA said that over 44,000 km of land is identified as requiring additional measures to protect water quality.

In a recent Dáil debate, Minister McConalogue said that negative trends in water quality have to be reversed, otherwise securing a derogation beyond 2024 will “become a big challenge”.

Stressing that it is “not about saying the minister needs to thump the table with the European Commission or take a hard line”, Minister McConalogue said:

“It is wrong for anyone to be complacent or believe it is simply about the government banging the table enough in order that we will continue to get it.

“The reality is we have a challenge in that we have not delivered over the past ten years in relation to improving water quality or in relation to meeting the targets under the Nitrates Directive.

“That has put us in a challenging situation at the moment. The reality is that if we do not, then come 2024 and 2025, securing the derogation again will become a big challenge.”