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 per cent 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 per cent. 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 Nea-gh 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.