LOUGH NEAGH WATER QUALITY IMPROVES

LOUGH NEAGH WATER QUALITY IMPROVES

A recent seminar was organised by Lough Neagh Partnership to examine the trends in water quality. The seminar, part of a Union European INTERREG Northern Peripheries programme, was attended by partners from Finland, Sweden, Iceland the Faroes and Ireland. Partners from Northern Ireland included the Lough Neagh Partnership and AFBI (Agri food and Biosciences Institute).

Representatives from Northern Ireland Environment Agency Water Management Unit provided a concise description of how water bodies are monitored and the 40 different biological and chemical parameters that are used to provide an indicator of a river or lake’s water quality status, ranging from Bad to Good.

Water quality in Northern Ireland was compared from 2015 to 2018 and in 2015 32.7% was classified as ‘good’ or better whilst in 2018 the percentage of river water bodies classified as ‘good’ or better has fallen slightly to 31.3% of NI. So some slight bad news for some of our catchments with soluble phosphorous, regarded as the one of the main limiting factors in holding back water quality status.

Whilst phosphorus levels in Lough Neagh remain high, and it is regarded as Eutrophic, it was clear the overall quality of water in the Lough has improved moving from Bad to Poor status. There is still some way to go and the issue of phosphorus that is retained in shoreline soils and in the lough’s bed will take some time to flush out but the trend of improvement in water quality is positive and something to celebrate.

Conor Jordan, chairperson, Lough Neagh Partnership, thanked everyone who attended the seminar and noted: “It is clear that lots of great work has been carried out on Lough Neagh and its Catchments. The trend of water quality in the 1970s and 80s was very poor. But with major infrastructure and investment by NI Water in Sewage plant upgrading and the implementation of the Water Framework Directive, the trend is now more positive and it is a good news water quality story for Lough Neagh.”

There has been a tremendous amount of work carried out by the NIEA Water Management unit in partnership with local River trusts such as the Ballinderry River and Six Mile Water River Trust, Local Councils, NI Water AFBI and the Lough Neagh Partnership.

WaterPro Partners Visit Ireland

WaterPro Partners Visit Ireland

EU PARTNERS VISIT IRELAND FOR COLLABORATIVE EUROPEAN WATER QUALITY IMPROVEMENT PROJECT – WATERPRO

Nine partners from Northern Europe, including the lead partner Savonia University of Applied Sciences (Finland) as well as partners from Sweden, Iceland, Faroe Islands and Northern Ireland recently attended an international conference in Letterkenny looking at bioremediation methods to manage runoff from agriculture, mining and landfills.

WaterPro Partners

WaterPro Project Partners

The conference, which was hosted by Donegal County Council, is part of an innovative EU funded project called WaterPro which aims to develop sustainable systems to protect water quality from agricultural and mining pollution.

GER_8277-2One of the highlights of the conference was a site visit to Churchtown Landfill site in Lifford, which has been capped and covered.  This uses a combination of an irrigated willow plantation and integrated constructed wetlands to treat leachate before it enters the River Finn.  The River Finn is one of Europe’s best salmon and sea trout rivers and Donegal County Council is committed to protecting this wonderful resource by ensuring that all leachate is treated effectively.

GER_8250-2The Council has introduced a plant based leachate treatment system at Churchtown and as part of the WaterPro project, the Council will, in close consultation with the Environment Protection Agency, will provide data and methodological information with a view to ensuring that similar systems can be replicated elsewhere.

The visiting delegates also attended their own project management meeting on Tuesday in Inishowen and was followed by a visit to Ireland’s most northerly point at Malin Head.

WaterPro visit to Lough NeaghThe delegates were then transported to Lough Neagh, where they visited two potential pilot sites at Washing Bay and Oxford Island.  The focus was on the eco services benefits from the management of water quality on these sites.  This was followed by a presentation from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency Water Management Unit, highlighting the main aspects of water quality improvement associated with the Neagh Bann Catchment Management Plan.

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Ville Matikka from Savonia University of Applied Sciences stated “it is fundamental to meet with other partners throughout Europe who have been involved in practical water quality improvement projects.  WaterPro is an excellent opportunity to learn best practice and transfer knowledge to and from other areas.”

WaterPro is funded through the Northern Peripheries Transnational Interreg Programme

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PROGRESSIVE COLLABORATIVE EUROPEAN WATER QUALITY IMPROVEMENT PROJECT

PROGRESSIVE COLLABORATIVE EUROPEAN WATER QUALITY IMPROVEMENT PROJECT

Lough Neagh Partnership Seek Water Quality Solutions in Sweden

Over nine partners from around the whole of Northern Europe, including lead partner Savonia University of Applied Sciences (Finland), and of course the local Lough Neagh Partnership met in Sweden at the end of November 2016 to discuss ideas and make suggestions on how to address nitrate run off problems from agricultural and mining water sources.

At the meeting, which is part of the Northern Peripheries Transnational Interreg Programme, each of the partners gave a presentation on the main agricultural and mining sites associated with their own area, highlighting particular run off problems whilst proposing research based solutions.  Gerry Darby from the Lough Neagh Partnership stressed the problems created by nitrate and phosphate run off into the Lough Neagh catchment are mainly from agricultural sources. He noted that “Whilst farmers and government departments are working together to slowly address this problem, it is important to consider other methods being used in other parts of Europe to see if these can be transferred to parts the Lough Neagh Catchment.” The meeting kicked off at Lulea University of Technology before travelling north to the Arctic Circle at Kiruna Iron Ore Mine, Sweden, one of the largest mines in Europe supplying 60% of all iron to the European market.



Waterpro partners



The mine has a history of nitrate run off issues hence practical mitigating suggestions were provided by the Swedish partners on how to address this pollution concern.  A previous meeting of all the partners was held in the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), Hillsborough in June 2016, where the benefits of planting a Short Rotational Willow Coppice System were explained and the key mitigation measures of the system were identified, including environmental protection for streams, rivers, lakes, environmental compliance, and biomass energy  production. It is intended that the transfer of this practical knowledge from the different sites and partners can be brought back to Lough Neagh and utilised to address nitrate and phosphate run off in some of the smaller catchments around the Lough so as to compile practical proposals to start addressing and reversing this water quality problem.

Nutrients in agricultural runoff are one of the major contributors to eutrophication and algal blooms, which leads to a loss of biodiversity in our local lakes and rivers; whilst Ammonium nitrate based explosives used in mining operations often result in nitrogen leaching via runoff. It is inevitable that global climate change will increase the frequency of floods and water volumes in Northern, Periphery and Arctic (NPA) areas increasing further the potential for pollution. Hence the Waterpro project, championed by the Northern Peripheries Transnational Interreg Programme, aims to provide more eco efficient runoff management tools and models in the Northern Periphery Area in anticipation of the effects of climate change and facilitate faster transfer of knowledge and develop wider cooperation within the Northern Periphery Area improving runoff management systems and techniques.  

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