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Stranooden GWS Final Report

Stranooden Group Water Scheme  Phase II Source Protection Pilot Project - FINAL REPORT 

Stranooden Group Water Scheme (GWS) in County Monaghan was selected as part of the National Federation of Group Water Schemes (NFGWS) Source Protection Pilot Project Phase II. This was the surface water element of the project, focusing on Stranooden GWS lake source, White Lough. The groundwater element project encompassed nine group water schemes in Counties Roscommon and Westmeath.

Project funding was approved by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (DHLGH) under the Multi Annual Rural Water Programme (MARWP) 2019 – 2021. The main objective of the pilot project was to provide a best practice model for group water schemes in building understanding of and sympathy for the source catchment and developing, with local stakeholders, a source protection plan for delineated source catchments. This protection plan should encourage and facilitate active participation by the whole community in the adoption and implementation of practical measures that aim to improve water quality and reduce pollution risks. Both pilot projects operated under the guidance of separate Operational Meeting Groups and one overarching Steering Group.

The development of an Integrated Catchment Management (ICM) Plan and implementation of source protection measures from the plan formed a key part of the Stranooden pilot project from its commencement in 2019. The establishment of partnerships with all relevant stakeholders was critical to the success and progression of the project, although face-to-face meetings were not possible through the Covid-19 pandemic. Given that the project continued into 2022 it was impacted by the pandemic in various ways. Interaction with the various stakeholders, not least with farmers in the catchment, was restricted. The progress of planned mitigation works was also affected as was the roll-out of the awareness campaign that had been developed in the early planning stages of the project. However, due to the determination of Stranooden GWS the obstacles were largely overcome, as is clear from this report.

Funding (at 100%) was administered by the Local Authority, Monaghan County Council. An allocation of €707,196 was approved towards the project in the MARWP 2019 -2021 with a further allocation of €79,000 approved in 2021 towards project completion, bringing the total grant allocation amount to €786,196. A breakdown of expenditure incurred is included in Appendix 1 of this report. At the early stages of the pilot project, a working group led by the NFGWS developed ‘A framework for drinking water source protection’ (2019). This framework provides generic guidance for the catchment component of drinking water source protection and sets out a series of logical steps to follow when developing an Integrated Source Protection Plan (ISPP). In the outworking of this project, Stranooden GWS followed the guidance contained within the aforementioned framework and consequently has structured this report in accordance with the various components described within that document.

This report provides an evaluation of untreated water quality in the source catchment (i.e. baseline condition, quality concurrent to the progress of the project and early conditions after the implementation of measures). An overview of the catchment characterisation is provided, in addition to a description of the source protection measures that were implemented.

Source protection is, of course, a process and needs to be a priority in the management and operation of any drinking water supply. This is clearly understood by the Board and management of Stranooden GWS, which now employs a full-time source protection officer (SPO) for what is a large and highlyimpacted source catchment.

The National Context

The protection of drinking water sources from contamination plays an important part in ensuring the supply of clean, safe and wholesome drinking water supplies for consumers, as it reduces over-reliance on treatment systems. Recognising this and building on the recommendations of the National Source Protection Pilot Project 2005-2010, the National Federation of Group Water Schemes (NFGWS), in conjunction with the National Rural Water Services Committee, agreed a strategy in 2012 that focused in the first instance on the delineation of all GWS source catchments as an essential initial step in source protection. As this mapping and preliminary assessment work was completed, the Federation’s focus turned to the second phase of its strategy; promoting the development and implementation of source protection strategies on all group water schemes as part of Water Safety Planning from source catchment to tap.

In the years since the Federation launched its strategy, Ireland’s efforts to meet its obligations under the Water Framework Directive (WFD) have prompted the adoption nationally of an Integrated Catchment Management (ICM) approach to source protection. This approach is entirely in keeping with the community ethos of group water schemes, as it provides an avenue for individuals and communities to shape and contribute to source protection plans in their own catchments. Furthermore, it reflects the historic experience of Ireland’s rural water sector, where farmers and householders worked together ‘for the good of the parish’.

The group water scheme sector was largely constructed in the 1970s as a response to Ireland’s entry to the then European Economic Community and the increased emphasis on hygiene standards in food production, not least in the dairying sector. Farmers and local dairy co-operatives were the main drivers of the sector, while the goodwill of individual landowners in providing access and wayleaves for pipework and other infrastructure was a key factor in keeping costs down and ensuring the successful construction of schemes in the region.

In approaching source protection, and as a sector with strong roots in rural communities, the NFGWS is cognisant of the fact that contamination pressures arising from agricultural activity can only be successfully addressed by working with farmers and harnessing their sense of pride of place and track record in community activism. Bearing this in mind, and as a contribution to the ICM approach, the NFGWS – in collaboration with a range of stakeholders - developed ‘A Framework for Drinking Water Source Protection Plans’. Prior to the completion of this framework and partly to inform it, two pilot projects were launched in 2018 as part of an NFGWS/community-led approach to source protection planning and implementation. These included a surface water pilot project focusing on the lake source supplying Stranooden GWS in County Monaghan and a groundwater pilot project encompassing nine group water schemes in Counties Roscommon and Westmeath.

Whatever about its strengths in terms of community engagement, the GWS sector does not have the technical knowledge, nor the enforcement powers required as part of source protection planning and implementation. For this reason, it was understood from the outset that the active support, advice and guidance of both statutory and voluntary agencies would be needed, both at national and local level. To this end, an overarching multi-agency steering group was established to co-ordinate both projects, while two multi-agency operational groups were established at a local level for the surface water and groundwater projects respectively.

This document includes the ICM plan developed for the surface water pilot project on the Stranooden GWS source at White Lough on the Dromore River system. The groundwater supplied scheme ICM plans produced by Tobin Consulting Engineers in conjunction with the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI) and the NFGWS are dealt with separately.

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