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Ministers McConalogue and O’Brien announce €60 million project to improve water quality

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D, together with the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien T.D, today announced support of €60 million for the improvement of water quality at local, catchment and national levels.

Through a WATER European Innovation Partnership (EIP) project, the Local Authority Waters Programme (LAWPRO) with Teagasc and Dairy Industry Ireland (DII) will work with farmers on an individual basis to improve water quality. This will be achieved through the adoption of innovative practices in nutrient management, the application of nature-based Natural Water Retention Measures (NWRM) and other measures at farm level following the principles of Integrated Catchment Management. As an innovation partnership, measures will be designed and targeted specifically to address local challenges.  

This is a collaborative approach between the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage in partnership with industry. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, will support the project through the provision of technical assistance and funding of €50 million for participating farmers, co-funded by the National Exchequer and the EU under the Common Agricultural Policy.  It expects to target 15,000 farmers in priority areas nationally.  The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage will provide administrative support and funding of €10 million. The Water EIP project, which will run until the end of 2027, has been awarded to the Local Authority Waters Programme (LAWPRO).  

Minister McConalogue said: “The agri-food industry is working together to improve water quality.  However, there is a need to recognise farmers that invest above and beyond regulatory requirements to address specific localised water quality issues.  This is the largest funding that my Department has provided to a single EIP, recognising the importance of this project to enhancing sustainable agricultural practices and contributing in a significant way to improving water quality at a national level.”  

Minister O’Brien added: “I am delighted to join in this announcement today and particularly, to note the collaborative process undertaken between the two Departments in developing the Water EIP. The Water EIP is a highly significant project that will promote the adoption of innovative best practice in nutrient management and address a critical gap in measures to protect and restore water quality.”  

Minister for Land Use and Biodiversity, Senator Pippa Hackett, noted: “As Minister with responsibility for European Innovation Partnerships within the Department of Agriculture, I have seen first-hand in recent years the positive impact that targeted, locally led advisory schemes can have on our environment. This is our largest EIP to date, and the scale of funding reflects the scale of our ambition to tackle agriculture-related declines in water quality.  

“The health and quality of our water is reflective of the health of our wider ecosystem, and pollution comes in many forms – with agriculture having a major influence. LAWPRO’s winning proposal will take a locally-based approach, combining farm level actions with landscape features to deliver on the programme’s core aim of improving water quality, and also to provide a range of ecosystem co-benefits. We know that the LAWPRO model is a model that works, for farmers and for water quality, so I am hugely excited to see what we can achieve by rolling it out at scale over the coming years.”  

Minister of State with responsibility for Heritage, Malcolm Noonan, commented: “I welcome the award of this new project. It will provide direct support to farmers and a vital link between the EPA’s catchment science, ASSAP advice and effective farm-level measures to protect and restore our waterways."  

Anthony Coleman, Director of LAWPRO, said: “The Local Authority Waters Programme (LAWPRO) is delighted to be leading this collaborative project with Teagasc and Dairy Industry Ireland to improve water quality by working with farmers on the ground.”  

Pat Murphy, Head of Department, Environment Knowledge Transfer, Teagasc, said: “The implementation of measures to protect water from diffuse losses of nutrients and sediment is key to realising water quality improvements. ASSAP has worked with farmers to identify areas on farms in need of action, the funding that will now be available to farmers through the Water EIP will help ensure that the right measure is put in the right place to minimise losses.”  

Conor Ryan, Chair of Dairy Industry Ireland, said: “Dairy Industry Ireland have always strived to encourage whole of sector and whole of government collaborative solutions to drive water quality improvements. This collaboration with LAWPRO and Teagasc is a huge step up of our efforts and ambition that has been driven since our involvement with the ASSAP water programme.”  

European Innovation Partnership Agriculture (EIP-Agri) projects are locally led and collaborative, tackling issues affecting natural resources, such as water, in an innovative way.  Learnings from previous successful EIP projects funded by the Department under the Rural Development Programme have already been scaled up into nationwide schemes such as the new agri-environment scheme, ACRES.  

The evaluation of the Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advisory Programme (ASSAP) identified the need to support farmers who implement additional targeted water protection measures. Scientific tools developed by the Environmental Protection Agency can help with targeting of the right measure in the right place.