The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) National Water Event 2019 which is exploring water quality and how – as a country – we can move “from knowledge to action” on the matter, heard this afternoon in Galway that farmers are the ones finding the solutions to poor water quality in this country.

The EPA has identified priority catchments or ‘areas for action’ in Ireland where the status of the water is at risk of falling because of agricultural and non-agricultural pressures.

Noel Meehan, programme manager, Teagasc Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advisory Programme (ASSAP) – who spoke during today’s event – said the body was currently working closely with farmers in an effort to improve water quality in certain catchment areas.

He also pointed to the “positive” impact the programme was having.

‘A collaborative approach’

Meanwhile, ASSAP came about as a result of the Government adopting “a more collaborative approach” to facilitate improvements in water quality.

Meehan, while pointing to the “positive response” from farmers, said during this morning’s discussion on the matter that despite the fact the process is new for everybody, “getting out on farms and talking to farmers” was the best way forward in terms of improving the nation’s water quality.

This, he added, will enable everyone to work together – and through effort and time – benefit residents, agriculture and the environment.

Meehan also pointed to the fact that in many cases – it was the farmer who was providing the solutions that were needed.

There are cases where Teagasc has gone onto farms and engaged with farmers – by the end of the process it is the farmer that is coming up with the ideas and solutions for mitigation actions that will ultimately benefit water quality.

Meehan went on to say that because the initiative was new, Teagasc’s role in the process was to help farmers understand better what the issues are and why a mitigation action is needed in the first instance.

“Each farmer that is visited by an ASSAP advisor will get a plan with some mitigation actions that would have been agreed prior to meeting with the farmer and one to which the farmer agreed to,” the Teagasc manager concluded.