5. Selection of Pilot Catchments

Closed19 Jun, 2023, 9:00am - 31 Dec, 2023, 5:00pm

5.1 Pilot Process Timeline

LAWPRO proposes to use five pilot catchments, one in each of its regions to develop a framework on how to establish Catchment Community Fora (CCF) and to trial the proposed Catchment Management Plan process. Preliminary work was undertaken in 2022 but it is intended that two separate, but related roadmaps will be developed in Q1 2023 for implementation in 2023.

The pilot catchments will serve two functions: engagement with as many sectoral groups and catchment settings as possible, as well as allowing for the piloting of the Catchment Community Fora. Several scientific and community-based criteria were considered in the selection of the five pilots. 

5.2 Pilot Selection Criteria

Over 50 characterisation datasets were utilised to inform the scientific selection process. Summary statistics were developed on a waterbody scale, which were then aggregated to hydrometric area (Ha) scale for each of the 46 catchments. Appendix A illustrates a subset of the dominant catchment criteria used during the process. While each of the pilot catchments could not include all significant issues, pressures and stakeholders, the approach ensured that collectively, the five pilot catchments were as all-encompassing as was possible.  Ten pilot catchments were shortlisted by the Catchment Managers across the five LAWPRO regions. Following consultation with the Regional Coordinators and Community Water Officers, the five pilot catchments were selected. These include:

  • Midlands & East: Boyne
  • Southeast: Slaney & Wexford Harbour
  • Border: Newry, Fayne Glyde & Dee
  • West: Galway Bay Southeast
  • Southwest: Mal bay

Boyne

The Boyne was selected as a pilot for the following reasons:

  • Multiple local authorities are represented in the catchment including Kildare, Offaly, Westmeath, Meath, Louth, and Cavan.
  • The catchment includes many significant protected areas including Natura 2000 sites, designated salmonid river waterbodies, and drinking water abstraction areas.
  • In the 2nd cycle RBMP, the Boyne catchment included six Areas for Action (AFA), comprising of 23 waterbodies. In the 3rd cycle RBMP, the number of AFA’s has been expanded to 23, comprising 106 waterbodies.
  • 58% of the catchment river waterbodies have monitored water chemistry. This is the highest proportion of the five pilots, providing an opportunity for both characterisation of pressures and monitoring of success.
  • Of the monitored river waterbodies, 36% exceed the environmental quality threshold (EQS) for phosphate, 27% exceed the EQS for ammonium and 27% exceed the EQS for nitrate. In addition, the Boyne catchment drains to the Boyne estuary which is at Moderate status and is flagged as a catchment requiring significant nitrogen reductions (EPA, 2021).
  • 29% of waterbodies in the catchment are impacted by physical alteration.
  • The dominant significant pressures in the catchment are agriculture, hydromorphology, extractive industry and to a lesser extent urban/domestic wastewater.
  • There are multiple implementing bodies (OPW, IFI, local authorities, NPWS, EPA, IW, NFGWS, Bord Na Móna) with concerns and interests within the catchment.
  • Five waterbodies on the Boyne main channel (BOYNE_130 to BOYNE_180) are included in the 3rd cycle Boyne area for action; this is led by IFI National Climate Change Research.

The Boyne catchment provides an opportunity to tackle both nitrogen and phosphorous issues from agricultural and human sources. Of the five pilots, the Boyne has the greatest proportion of waterbodies impacted by hydromorphology, specifically artificial drainage and extractive industry.

Slaney & Wexford Harbour

The Slaney and Wexford Harbour catchment was selected as a pilot for the following reasons:

  • The catchment includes multiple local authority areas (Wicklow, Carlow and Wexford)
  • The catchment includes many significant protected area concerns (Natura 2000 sites, shellfish waters, drinking water.
  • There are multiple implementing bodies (IFI, local authorities, NPWS, IW, NFGWS, BIM) with concerns and interests within the catchment.
  • Nitrate is a concern in this catchment; river sites in the catchment show increasing trends in measured nitrate concentrations and the reduction required to bring nitrogen concentrations in the Slaney estuary and Wexford Harbour to a satisfactory level is one of the highest nationally.
  • Agriculture is a significant pressure in the catchment, and the catchment features large areas of both pasture and tillage.  The pilot provides us an opportunity to further develop the presentation of information relating to agricultural pressures across the various types of agricultural activity.
  • 10% of the river waterbodies in the catchment have a high-status objective.

Newry, Fayne, Glyde and Dee

The Newry, Fayne, Glyde and Dee catchment was selected as a pilot for the following reasons:

  • The catchment includes multiple local authority areas (predominantly Cavan, Monaghan, Meath and Louth).
  • It was essential for the pilot catchment for the Border region to include a cross-border element. The Newry, Fayne, Glyde and Dee intersects with two local authority areas in Northern Ireland (Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council, and Newry, Mourne & Down District Council); this will allow for cross-jurisdictional collaboration with said local authorities and regulatory bodies (NIEA, NI Water etc).
  • There are a number of Protected Area interests within the catchment (predominantly drinking waters but also some SAC, SPA, bathing waters and shellfish waters).
  • There are multiple implementing bodies (IFI, local authorities, NPWS, IW, NFGWS, BIM) with concerns and interests within the catchment.
  • Elevated phosphate concentrations (above EQS) are a concern in the majority of the catchment (in 75% of waterbodies) with some ammonium (41%) and Nitrate (47%) breaches of EQS also. The phosphate concerns on wet/heavy soils will offer the chance to contrast with learnings from other Pilot catchments, e.g. Slaney and Wexford Harbour, where soil conditions and hence significant issues (nitrate) are different.
  • Agriculture is the most significant pressure in the catchment (42% of waterbodies) with hydromorphology (19%), UWWT (15%) and Urban run-off (12%) also key concerns. 

The Newry, Fayne, Glyde and Dee pilot provides an opportunity to further develop the presentation of information relating to agricultural pressures, particularly on poorly draining land. Furthermore, of the five pilot catchments, the Newry, Fayne, Glyde and Dee has the greatest impact from urban wastewater and urban runoff.

Galway Bay South-East

The Galway Bay Southeast catchment was selected as a pilot for the following reasons:

  • Small catchment area comprising 38 waterbodies.
  • The catchment includes three local authority areas (predominantly Galway County Council & Clare County Council), with the Corrib estuary in Galway City Council.
  • Essentially all the catchment water bodies are in 3rd cycle Areas for Action, led by a range of agencies including: LAWPRO, GSI, Clare County Council and Galway City Council.
  • There are multiple implementing bodies (OPW, IFI, local authorities, NPWS, EPA, IW, NFGWS, etc) with concerns and interests within the catchment.
  • The catchment is predominantly underlain by karstified limestone, including the northern part of the Burren in County Clare. Compared to the other pilot catchments, Galway Bay Southeast offers a unique opportunity to investigate the linkage between groundwater and surface water in the complex karst environment.
  • There are:
    • seven bathing waters in or directly adjacent to the catchment, three designated shellfish area in the catchment across seven waterbodies.
    • 25 SACs in the catchment, 21 of which have water dependent habitats or species.
    • 13 groundwater bodies delineated and assessed as Groundwater Dependent Terrestrial Ecosystems in the catchment.
  • Prior to the 2022 EPA assessment assigning status to all unmonitored identified waterbodies, 48% of the waterbodies in the catchment were unassigned.
  • 48% of the river waterbodies in the catchment have active chemistry monitoring. Of these, 19% exceeded the EQS for phosphate with 13% for ammonium.
  • Agriculture, Hydromorphology, Domestic Wastewater and Urban Wastewater are the dominant pressures in the catchment.
  • 14 of the catchment waterbodies fall within ACRES cooperation areas – Burren & Midwest Southern Uplands: This provides an opportunity to engage with agricultural stakeholders.
  • 8% of waterbodies in the catchment achieved High ecological status (2013-18), this is the highest proportion of all the five pilot catchments.

The Galway Bay Southeast pilot catchment offers an opportunity to better understand previously unassigned waterbodies, karst groundwater/river/coastal interactions and high-status objective sites coupled with an opportunity to engage with the ACRES project.

Mal Bay

Mal Bay was selected as a pilot for the following reasons:

  • The catchment includes one local authority area (Clare County Council).
  • There are several Protected Areas within the catchment, including seven bathing waters and three drinking water protected areas. There are also seven SACs, all of which have water dependent habitats or species.
  • Excess nutrients are the most prevalent issue in the catchment, followed by hydrological impacts (11 waterbodies), morphological impacts (9 waterbodies) and sediment (9 waterbodies).
  • The dominant significant pressure is forestry which impacts 12 river water bodies. The pilot presents an opportunity to further develop the measures appropriate to forestry’s impact on water quality.
  • There are 11 water bodies where the significant pressure is unknown. Agriculture, domestic wastewater, hydromorphology and urban wastewater account for the remaining significant pressures.
  • There are multiple implementing bodies (local authorities, NPWS, EPA, Forest Service) with concerns and interest within the catchment.
  • There is previous experience of community participation in water related projects including the Inagh EIP (5 waterbodies), Aughaglanna EIP (1 waterbody) and IFI Climate Change Mitigation Research (5 waterbodies).

Given the economic value of good water quality, particularly for bathing waters and the associated linked industries such as tourism, the Mal Bay catchment provides an opportunity to work in a catchment with strong community interest in water quality. There is also an opportunity to put into practice investigative assessment techniques to assess impact of forestry on water quality and to develop appropriate measures.

The five catchments proposed for the piloting of the Catchment Management Plans will be the catchments that will be used for the CCF workshops, which will provide recommendations for the development of a framework for the rollout of out of fora.  Several community engagement considerations (Appendix C) have been used along with LAWPRO Community Water Officers’ feedback.