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The aims of the Water Framework Directive are to maintain ‘High’ and ‘Good’ water quality status where it exists and achieve at least ‘Good’ status for all waters by 2015. High status water bodies (HSW) are surface water bodies whose measured values reflect undisturbed conditions and Ireland has 176 rivers and 20 lake waterbodies classified as high status during the 2007-2009 monitoring period. However, a historical look at monitoring data over the past twenty years has shown a decline in the numbers of high status waterbodies with 210 monitoring sites lost between 1998 and 2010.

Most of these waterbodies are located in upland areas, clustered along the western seaboard with a high proportion of peat soils in their catchment. Agriculture in these areas is typically extensive, however, poor management of nutrients on farms can cause significant pressure in sensitive catchments. Farmers living in these areas require nutrient management strategies that will take account of the soil and topographical constraints within the landscape.

The Harmony Project

Harmony is catchment based project that integrates research on soils and hydrology with socio-economic factors to derive locally relevant measures for agriculture in sensitive catchments. The project is funded under the DAFM Stimulus fund and will provide research at post-graduate and post-doctorate level in catchment and socio-economic science. Harmony is a collaborative project led by Teagasc research scientists from Johnstown Castle and Athenry, and in partnership with scientists from the University of Ulster, NUI Galway and AFBI.