Until the 1960s, piped water to the rural population was unheard of. Community driven schemes filled that gap through the sourcing of local supplies and currently provide drinking water to 6% of Ireland’s population. The National Federation of Group Water Schemes is the representative body for the Group Water Scheme sector.
This project seeks to provide practical measures to safeguard the catchments to the Group Water Scheme sources from potential contamination. It is being done in collaboration with the NFGWS and Geological Survey Ireland.
Provision of a sustainable drinking water supply is at the core of this ambitious project through a combination of risk identification and risk mitigation. This accords with the W.H.O. guidelines that seeks to get providers of drinking water to manage their water supplies through a Drinking Water Safety Plan (DWSPs) approach. DWSPs comprise making the water both ‘safe’ via water treatment and ‘secure’ through risk management of the catchment to the drinking water source. The catchment to the source can be 100m2 to several tens of km2. Thus, the risks are any potential source of contamination, e.g., farm yards, septic tanks, roads, forestry. This project also seeks to engage with the stakeholders; bringing them on board in the endeavours to safeguard the drinking water.
Land Use and Wildlife
A strong focus of this project is to drive behavioural change among the community that live in the catchments. One of the biggest groups of landowners is the farming community. Measures and practices that safeguard the water supply include improvements of biodiversity, restoring and protecting water courses that flow through the land. Examples include more trees along riparian zones, a greater network of species-rich grasslands, vegetative buffer strips, wild bird seed cover etc. The benefits are wide ranging and impactful.
Health and Happiness
A healthy, resilient and sustainable catchment will encourage a strong, healthy community built through a shared vision. This project is particularly focused on communications, awareness and education. This spoke of the project talks about the drinking water to the community via farmers knowledge discussion groups, farm advisors, schools, media, etc. with the intention of making people and the community aware of where their water comes from and how their actions, activities and work can impact on the quality of the water.