The EPA’s recent water quality report identifies nutrient pollution, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus, as being the primary cause of pollution of Irish watercourses.
Organic/chemical fertilisers and soiled waters have the potential to cause devastating effects should they enter a waterbody, and therefore need to be managed accordingly.
Should such nutrients enter a nearby watercourse, the pollution starves the water of oxygen and can result in the demise of all aquatic life, including fish, over the entire length of the affected watercourse. It can take a number of years for these fish stocks to recover following such an event.
The preservation of bankside vegetation is crucial to biodiversity and the prevention of bank erosion. Buffer zones reduce nutrient and sediment runoff from land to watercourses, with multiple benefits for water quality and in stream habitat. This in turn reduces instream weed growth and the requirement for channel maintenance.
It is an offence under the Fisheries Acts to allow polluting matter to enter a watercourse.
The Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Regulations (2018-2021) stipulate a number of water protection measures aimed at preventing sediment and nutrient discharges to watercourses. Nutrient management plans enable the calculating of the optimum volumes of nutrient to be applied to farmlands, thereby avoiding excessive nutrient application and reducing the risk of possible runoff.
Herbicides and pesticides can also have a detrimental effect on fish (especially juveniles) and aquatic life. It should be noted that it is also an offence under the Fisheries Acts to disturb the bed or gravels of salmonid spawning habitat. Should any groundwork be required in, on or near a watercourse, it is best practice to consult with us in advance. Where possible, livestock access points to watercourses should be replaced with solar powered/nose water pumps. Specialist advice can be sourced from the local agricultural advisor/Department office or on the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine’s website https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/.
To protect against these threats, our staff undertake routine inspections of a wide range of watercourses and also respond to pollution reports from members of the public along with referrals from other State Agencies.