Category Archives: Lough Neagh Partnership



A three-year project, WaterPro, undertaken by nine main partners from Northern Europe including the Lough Neagh Partnership, has now recently come to a close.

The project which researched practical methods to reduce farming and mining nitrate run off,was part of EU Northern Peripheries Transnational Interreg Programme.  Partners were from the Faroe Islands, Finland, Iceland, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Sweden, and the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute in Northern Ireland.

The project included two recent seminars at Oxford Island were the results of the research was explained to local and national stakeholders who are involved in helping improve water quality.

By coincidence the seminar occurred just as the water quality on Lough as Neagh deemed as having improved from ‘bad’ to ‘poor’, indicating that although this is positive news for the lough, there is still much work to be done.  The Lough Neagh Partnership is now working with over 60 farmers along the shoreline helping them apply and participate in the DAERA Environmental Farm Scheme and is now starting to share this best practice water quality information from the Waterpro programme

Gerry Darby, Strategic Manager at Lough Neagh Partnership, said: “Participation on the Water Pro project has enabled our team to work with some of the leading Northern European countries on water quality, hosting partner conferences in Northern Ireland and attending various working seminars.  It will help us develop new practical tools and models for future good water quality management. Whilst the improvement of water quality on Lough Neagh is not as a direct result of Lough Neagh Partnership’s participation on the project, our involvement in the project has been invaluable.”

WaterPro Gerry Darby

Later in this year the Lough Neagh Partnership also hosted a major innovative ecosystem services conference, which again was part of the Waterpro project, focusing on the value of the economic, social and environmental services that are supplied from Oxford Island.

The conference demonstrated the value of the full range of services provided by important landscapes like Oxford Island, from the rich diversity of its wetland habitats and species, to the provision of  quality educational and recreational services.  The monetary benefits of this great natural resource were also identified indicating that the annual economic value of the services provided from Oxford Island were over £2.3 million.

The final seminar in the WaterPro project happened just at the end of May, providing delegates from Lough Neagh Partnership with an opportunity to attend an international conference in Finland, were the final conclusions of the water quality research were presented.

Gerry added: “This three-year European project has brought together like minded partners who otherwise may not have had an opportunity to connect and I am confident that every one of those partners involved will be able to further benefit from the learnings and findings well into the future.”

Lough Neagh Partnership is a non-profit charity made up of representative bodies and stakeholders responsible for the integrated management and protection of the Lough.  It oversees 6 programmes in total including a £3.5 million HLF Landscape Scheme which aims to protect the built, cultural and natural heritage of the Lough.

To find out more, visit:

Oxford Island Eco System Services

Oxford Island Eco System Services



This is a major innovative conference bringing together experts and partners who have experience of assessing the wider benefits of facilities like Oxford Island. The conference will demonstrate the value of the full range of services provided by important landscapes, from the rich diversity of its wetland habitats and species, to the provision of a quality recreational service.  The conference will also present the findings of recent WaterPro research, highlighting the monetary and non monetary benefits of this great natural resource.
Order of Events
9.00am     Registration, tea and coffee

9.20am     Welcome and Introduction – Conor Jordan – Chair, Lough Neagh Partnership

9.25am     Overview of WaterPro project – Gerry Darby, Manager, Lough Neagh Partnership

9.30am     Working for better water quality in the Lough Neagh Catchment  – Mert Thompson, Catchment Officer, DAERA, Environment, Marine and Fisheries, NIEA,Water Management Unit

10.00am     Agricultural and farming services on southern shores of Lough Neagh through EFS Group Project – Michael Meherg, Lough Neagh Environmental Group Farm Scheme Coordinator

10.30am     Climate Change Adaptation – Cathy Burns, Climate Adaptation Officer, Derry City and Strabane District Council

11.00am     Tea and Coffee Break

11.30am     Biodiversity services of Oxford Island National Nature Reserve – Marcus Malley, Conservation Manager Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council

12.00pm     Cultural Services from southern shores of Lough Neagh and Oxford Island – Liam Campbell, Cultural and Build Heritage Officer, Lough Neagh Partnership

12.30pm     Assessment of Eco-Systems services in Oxford Island, WaterPro Research Findings – Philip O’Kane, JM Consulting (NI)

1.15pm     Lunch




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.



Lough Neagh Partnership is hosting an international seminar on ‘The Management and Regulation of Water Quality in Lough Neagh’ in partnership with Interreg VB Northern Periphery and Artic Programme, WaterPro Project. The project aims to develop new tools and models to help better manage nitrate run off from farms.


Places are available for this free to attend seminar on Tuesday 27 November which will examine the management and regulation of water quality and agricultural run off into Lough Neagh as part of the exchange of knowledge on the WaterPro Project.

Conor Jordan, the Chairperson of the Lough Neagh Partnership, will chair the seminar, and speaking ahead of the event, he said;

“We all know that the Lough has historically had issues of water quality associated with it.  But through the hard work of the NIEA water quality management group and new practices adopted by farmers since the introduction of the European Nitrates Directive, we are now beginning to see positive changes in the quality of the Lough’s water.  The seminar will look at other best practices being used in Northern Europe and this will also help us continue with the good news water quality trend”


Presentations at the event, in the Discovery Centre at Oxford Island, will focus on the overall Northern Ireland regulation and management of water quality, the past problems with Lough Neagh, the present trends in water quality data and present pilot bioremediation tools to help address the problems at a local farm level. The seminar will also provide an update on the other models and pilot projects attempting to address run off problems from Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Ireland, Scotland and the Faroes.


Speakers include Mary Toland and Brenda Walker, Northern Ireland Water Management Unit; Bob Foy, retired Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute Water Quality Scientist, Chris Johnston, Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute WaterPro Partner and Gerry Darby of Lough Neagh Partnership.

The seminar begins at 9.30am with registration and refreshments and ends, following lunch, at 2.00pm.

To confirm your attendance at ‘The Management Regulation of Water Quality in Lough Neagh’ seminar, email Aaron Swann at Lough Neagh Partnership –

Order Of the Events


9.30am: Registration, Tea and Coffee

10.00am: Regulation of Water in Northern Ireland and Lough Neagh River Catchment Plan: Mary Toland, Northern Ireland Water Management Unit

10.30am: Past Water Quality Issues and Nitrate Management on Lough Neagh: Bob Foy Retired AFBI Water Quality Scientist

11.00am: Present trends of water quality on Lough Neagh: TBC

12.00 noon: Willow Bioremediation Project: Waterpro Pilot Project in AFBI, Hillsborough: Chris Johnston AFBI Waterpro Partner 

12.30pm: Summary of other Northern European Waterpro Water Quality Pilot Research Projects

1.30pm: Lunch

2.00pm: Seminar Finish 

WaterPro Partners Visit Scotland for Collaborative European Water Quality Improvement Project – WaterPro

WaterPro Partners Visit Scotland for Collaborative European Water Quality Improvement Project – WaterPro

As the water quality Waterpro project comes to the end of its second year of collaborative working, representatives from Lough Neagh Partnership joined other partners form Northern Europe at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh to reflect on the impact of the project to date and to plan ahead for year three.


Gerry Darby of Lough Neagh Partnership attended and reported that The Waterpro Project continues to make good progress with Heriot Watt University coordinating work and agreeing that a new toolkit comprising new good practice information cards which will now be drawn up by each partner. Savonia University in Finland is taking the lead in developing new templates for the cards. The toolkit aims to provide a good practice information card to the farming community to provide good advice on how to manage nitrate and phosphate run off into our water systems.


The importance of the evaluation of climate change effects in each of the partner countries was also discussed during the partner conference in Edinburgh, with the agreement that each partner should research and develop a short summary of the potential effects of climate change on nutrient run off in their own area. Again, this practical advice will be feed back to the farming stakeholder community and the Lough Neagh Partnership will undertake to develop write up a small paper on the effects of climate change on the Lough and in particular its effect in the Loughs nitrate and phosphate levels.


Gerry reported that partners at Savonia University will also design a web-based selection tool, which will help stakeholders select suitable good practices based on their own nitrate run off circumstances. The toolbox will be produced by February 2019.


Commenting about the value of attending the conference, Gerry said: “Whilst we are all continuing our day to day work the Waterpro project in our own areas, coming together at these round table discussions and conferences are invaluable for partners of the Waterpro project in order to build on the impact that the project has had in the past two years and to proactively plan ahead for the next phase with a joined up approach. The face to face international interaction provides an opportunity to discuss unique partner experiences that conference calls and emails just don’t permit.”


In closing, partners attending the conference updated each other on their pilot projects and Gerry advised that progress on all sites is proceeding well with all site information being fed into the new good practice toolkit and website. Arrangements for a major water quality conference to be held on the shores of Lough Neagh in the Autumn were also agreed.

Scotland HWU June 2018



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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