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ASSAP - farming for water quality

ASSAP – Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advice Programme working with farmers in a free and confidential advisory service to help improve water quality.

In Ireland all water policy and management is led by the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and under this, the country has been set a target of achieving ‘good status’ for all its waters. However, despite a lot of good work over the last 20-30 years we are falling short in achieving this target and water quality has remained mainly static with no significant improvement being recorded.

As a result, the Government is adopting a more collaborative approach to facilitate improvements in water quality. The EPA has identified priority catchments or ‘areas for action’ across the country where the status of the water is at risk of falling from a range of both agrricultural and non-agricultural pressures.

ASSAP team at stream

In these priority areas, ASSAP is focussing its resources on addressing agricultural pressures and is made up of scientists that will assess the streams and advisors who will work closely with farmers.

Where an agricultural pressure is identified the farmers in the area will receive the offer of a free farm visit from an ASSAP advisor. The purpose of the visit is to meet with the farmer and assess the farm for any potential issues that may be having an effect on the water quality in the local catchment. 

Why is this important?

It is in all our interests to work together to improve Ireland's overall water quality and the wellbeing of society. Additionally, it will also help to strengthen farming by reinforcing our green image as food producers and underpin the future development of sustainable Irish agriculture.

Where is ASSAP working?

Downloadable PDF Map PAA of the 190 areas.

How many ASSAP advisors?

20 Teagasc and 10 Dairy Co-op.

Do I have to take part in ASSAP?

 No.

Are the farm visits and consultations confidential?

Yes.

What advisory service will ASSAP provide?

The farmer and advisor will agree on where to focus improvements or actions on the farm:

  • Improved nutrient management with more targeted use of slurry and fertiliser 
  • New approaches to land management to reduce nutrient losses in critical source areas 
  • Better farmyard management and practices

What are the possible on-farm actions?

The practical advice will be designed to ‘break the pathway’ and prevent nutrients from entering water. Examples of such measures include riparian margins along streams, fencing to stop cattle access to streams, more suitable siting of troughs and feeders, improved use of fertilisers and slurries, better yard management etc.

Who is supporting the ASSAP?

Support from the farming organisations for the programme is very strong and this is vital in communicating and informing farmers about the programme and its key messages. Funding and collaboration with other bodies including DAFM, DHPLGLAWPRO and Dairy Sustainability Ireland has allowed the formation of the catchment assessment and advisory teams that will progress the programme on the ground.

How long will it run for?

The programme is funded until the end of 2021.

Is there a charge for the ASSAP service?

No.

Additional links

Water Framework Directive

Water quality in Ireland

Cross Compliance

Nitrate Regulations (PDF 53 kb)