The Department of Agriculture is set to use EPA data to identify Vulnerable Water Areas a key criteria for many farmers hoping to enter the new GLAS scheme, the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said this week.

In response to a parliamentary question on the issue this week, the Minister said GLAS is an agri-environment measure under the proposed Rural Development Programme and as such aims to deliver overarching benefits in terms of the rural environment and address issues of climate change mitigation, water quality and the preservation of habitats and species.

He said the scheme is designed to specifically target environmental priorities, but it also has provision for farmers with no such priorities, but who are committed to carrying out general environmental actions on their holdings.

According to the Minister, access to the GLAS scheme is therefore by means of three Tiers, which will allow the most pressing environmental priorities to be addressed in order of importance, but also provides for a broad approach to delivering environmental benefits across all farming systems.

Those applicants with Priority Environmental Assets or who choose Priority Environmental Actions compatible with a more intensive farming system will get first access to the Scheme under Tier 1.

Under Tier 2 farmers who do not have Priority Environmental Assets or Priority Environmental Actions, but whose lands include a Vulnerable Water Area, may apply for access to the scheme and will be given priority. In such cases, the appropriate actions relevant to Vulnerable Water Areas must be selected.

Minister Coveney has said these Vulnerable Water Sites have been identified using the EPA dataset for Low Status Water Sites intersected with the EPA Soils and Subsoils dataset.

He said those LPIS parcels which are within 15 metres of a Low Status Water River Site and where the soil type is wet are eligible for carrying out a Vulnerable Water Site Action and will be identified on the on-line GLAS application system.