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ASSAP - Working with farmers to improve water quality

The Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advisory Programme - ASSAP is in existence since 2018. Advisors are working with farmers in Priority areas for action (PAA) across the country to improve water quality. ASSAP advisors Deirdre Glynn and Cathal Somers give information about the programme

The EPA have identified 190 PAA’s  where water quality needs some improvement. There are multiple pressures across the PAA’s such as industry, waste water treatment plants, septic tanks, forestry, agriculture and urban pressures. A lot of good work over the last 20-30 years yet we are falling short in achieving 'good status'for our water. Water quality has remained mainly static with no significant improvement in recent years. ASSAP advisors are focused on addressing agricultural pressures in the 190 identified PAAs. 

20 advisors from Teagasc and 10 advisors from the dairy CO-OP’s are working closely with farmers in a free and confidential advisory service. The aim is to work together in identifying threats to water quality on the farm and develop a plan to put measures in place to reduce nutrient, sediment and other agricultural losses to our waterbodies. All farmers can avail of this service within the PAA’s.

ASSAP advisors are supported by a team of catchment scientists from the Local Authority Waters Programme (LAWPRO), who assess rivers in a PAA and identify the main pressures in the waterbody. Where agriculture is the pressure, ASSAP advisors can use this information to provide targeted advice to farmers, ‘the right measure in the right place’.

Both a community and a farmer engagement meetings are held in a PAA when starting work in an area. LAWPRO organise the community meeting to update locals on the water quality and pressures in their area. Following this, ASSAP advisors host a farmer meeting generally on a local farm to discuss the service and how to tackle the agricultural issues in the area.

When on a farm visit, the 3 main things ASSAP advisors will discuss with a farmer are:

  • nutrient management planning
  • farmyard losses
  • land management.

The purpose of the visit is to identify issues on the farm that may affect water quality and form a plan. The local knowledge of the farmer plays an important role in identifying solutions. The practical advice will be designed to ‘break the pathway’ and prevent nutrients from entering water. Small changes on a farm, can make a big difference to water quality.  

 priority areas for action