Weed wiping project a win-win for environment

WATER SERVICE RI Farm
GROUP: SCaMP NI team meeting with UFU regarding the Weed-Wiping project, from left: Robert Calvin (UFU), Dominic McCann (NIW Farm Liaison Officer), Rebecca Allen (NIW SCaMP Liaison Officer), Ian Gregg (UFU), Roy Taylor (NIW Catchment Manager) and Victor Chestnutt (UFU Deputy President).

SEAGAHAN water treatment works supplies quality drinking water to the Markethill area. Like all other areas, activities on the land in the surrounding catchment area impacts water quality in the reservoir supplying the treatment works.

Routine monitoring of water in the dam has shown elevated levels of the grassland herbicide MCPA, which can reach surface water through run-off from agricultural activity, such as pesticide application via a boom-sprayer.

Working with farmers and the local community, in 2017 and 2018, NI Water delivered a free weed-wiping trial, ‘A Rush Solution Without Pollution’, which provided an alternative to conventional boom spraying and helps to protect this valuable water source. The free weed-wiping service is used as an alternative to spraying MCPA, to demonstrate an alternative effective rush control method whilst causing less water pollution.

Roy Taylor, NI Water Catchment Manager, commented: “The weed-wiping project at Seagahan has been a great success. The farming community has gained as they have had a good rush kill, helping secure basic payments and maximise grass production. NI Water has gained as the MCPA levels were reduced in the reservoir by over 75 per cent in 2018, resulting in savings in the water treatment process and producing high quality drinking water for the local area.

“The true winner however is the environment and the project has shown that partnership working between NI Water and the farming community can really have environmental benefits and sustainably improve our water quality.”

The President of the Ulster Farmers’ Union, Ivor Ferguson, says he hopes to see more of this type of partnership in the future: “It is a testament to the farmers in the area who embraced this technology and to NI Water, NIEA, DAERA, CAFRE and the Voluntary Initiative for using a collaborative approach rather than regulations and penalties. It is a great example of what can be achieved when we work together constructively.”

The overall aim of the project was to show that MCPA levels can be reduced in the reservoir without the need for expensive capital investment.

The two-year project was managed by NI Water and carried out in conjunction with the Water Catchment Partnership and the farming industry as part of the innovative campaign to help reduce levels of MCPA in the Seagahan catchment area. The results have been very positive, showing that weed-wiping is a really effective method for controlling rushes and has the added benefit of improving water quality in our lakes and streams.

NI Water is planning to continue the weed-wiping project at Seagahan for another two years and is involved in a range of

other sustainable projects to improve water quality across Northern Ireland.

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