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New water protection measures


Under the Nitrates Action Plan and since 1st January 2021 further measures for the protection of water are required. Here, Eamonn Grace, ASSAP Advisor, discusses two important measures worth noting; Exclusion of bovines from watercourses and Location of water troughs away from watercourses

Under the Nitrates Action Plan a number of measures have come into being since 1st January 2021 aimed at further enhancing the protection of water. The headline measure is the requirement to prevent the runoff of sediment and nutrients from farm roadway to any kind of structure that can convey water ( lakes, rivers, streams, watercourses even dry drains ).

There are two other very important measures worth noting. The first one is the “exclusion of bovines from watercourses” and the second one is the “location of water troughs away from watercourses”.

So who do these two water protection measures apply to?

  • They apply to farmers that have a grassland stocking rate over 170 kg. N. / Ha. in the previous year, which is 2020.
  • They apply to farmers who exported organic manure to come back under the 170 kg N. / Ha. in 2020
  • They apply to Tillage farmers with grassland, where that Grassland is stocked at greater than 170 kg N. / Ha. in 2020
  • And of course they applies to all Derogation farmers.

What type of water conveying system do these measures apply to?

They apply to Watercourses that are marked on a 1:5000 scale Ordnance Survey map. These maps can be looked up on the Ordnance Survey Ireland ( OSI ) website. The watercourses will appear as a continuous blue line ( not broken or mottled ). They can be of varying thickness reflecting the size of the watercourse. See link to accessing these maps. If in doubt about whether the watercourse is marked on the OSI map it is best to fence it.    Here is the link OSI Place Map

Instructions: Choose -  Customise -  Paper options choose A3 – Scale choose 1:5000 – Zoom in to bring up your farm and note the watercourses.   Contact your Agricultural advisor if you are having difficulty getting the maps on the OSI website. 

1. Exclusion of Bovines from watercourses

The idea of this measure is to prevent the degradation of water course banks and damage to the watercourse bed and hence avoid the transfer of soil and nutrients to water.

The requirement is to erect a bovine proof fence 1.5 meters out from the top of the watercourse bank. If there is a an existing fence in place that is closer to the watercourse bank than the 1.5 meters this will either have to be moved out of another fence placed outside it that is at least the 1.5 meters out from the watercourse bank. This fence could be of a temporary nature ( pigtail stakes and flexible wire ). No bovine access is allowed for drinking. If bovines have to walk through a watercourse for access to a land parcel the crossing must be fenced both sides so that the bovines can’t walk up or down the watercourse.

2. Water trough location

This measure is aimed at preventing the likelihood of sediment and nutrients created around drinking troughs from finding their way to the adjacent water.

Water troughs cannot be located closer than 20 meters from a watercourse. In very narrow paddocks that have watercourses on all sides the trough must be located the maximum distance possible from the watercourses, this may be less than 20 meters.

The above two measures along with others will help to protect water quality and the biodiversity and wildlife these habitats support. They will also help Irelands case for the retention of the Nitrates Derogation and uphold our national environmental law.

Find more from Teagasc on Water Quality here