As improving water quality continues to be a priority for farmers, head of environment knowledge transfer at Teagasc, Pat Murphy described improving water quality as a “contact sport”.

Murphy said that in order to improve water conditions it is about getting “more boots on the ground”, where advisors should be visiting communities, looking at water quality, and helping farmers to improve how they are contributing to its status.

“You have got to get down working with farmers, it’s not a one size fits all,” Murphy told Agriland.

A new project launched by dairy processor Tirlán is focused on working with farmers to improve the quality of the River Slaney in particular.

The river runs through counties Wexford, Carlow and Wicklow and was previously highlighted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) water testing programme as a “catchment of concern”.

The project will be a series of combined actions in collaboration with stakeholders, including Teagasc, and aims to offer advice and funding to affected farmers.

Dairy farmer, Larry Hannon from Co. Kildare said farmers have “embraced” the idea of improving water quality.

He said the new project is a “great idea” for all stakeholders, including communities to understand what is involved in making improvements.

Water quality

The River Greese runs through Hannon’s farm, and he said he already participates in measures to mitigate agricultural damage to water, such as fencing off waterways, reducing spreading levels, along with increasing clover growth.

He said that the “clock is ticking” on the issue and the idea of quality not improving “will not be good enough”.

Hannon said that there are already “challenges” from the change in derogation from 250kgN/ha to 220kgN/ha.

“If we move to 170, my business is no longer solvent, so the knock on effect for the rural economy could be catastrophic,” Hannon said.

Hannon said the project could be expanded to other communities in the country.

Teagasc representative Pat Murphy said that the project is working “at scale” with a large number of farmers.

“There is huge interest from other milk suppliers and other farm industries in looking at what’s happening here and looking to see is there possibility to spread it to other areas,” Murphy said.