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The “Grand Challenges” for food and agriculture in the 21st century include population growth, climate change, energy and water supply, all of which affect the potential of agriculture to provide an increasing secure supply of safe food. As a result, the “sustainable intensification” (SI) of agricultural production has become a priority issue for policymakers and international development agencies. In Ireland, the industry-developed strategies for the agri-food sector, Food Harvest 2020 (DAFF 2010) and Food Wise (DAFM 2015), set ambitious agricultural expansion targets for the dairy sector in  particular. This highlights the need for research and implementation science to facilitate sustainable agriculture. However, the pollution of surface and ground waters represents one of the main environmental problems facing agri-ecosystems. The EU Water Framework Directive (Directive 2000/60/EC) (WFD) was established as an overarching approach to protect water bodies, however, despite the implementation of Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) regulations (S.I. No. 31 of 2014), which include a variety of measures designed to keep nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen on farmland, surface water quality has deteriorated in recent years. 

WaterMARKE is an ambitious multi-actor research project which is co-funded by EPA and DAFM. The project connects the areas of biophysical science, socio-economics, behavioural psychology and implementation science in a unique and novel framework that goes further than most research projects in that it crosses over between research and knowledge transfer to provide outputs that are valuable to the research communities in these areas, as well as producing a knowledge transfer template which tests and implements the learnings from the project. This project approaches the issue of water quality from the scientific, institutional, behavioural and Knowledge Transfer perspectives. 

Firstly, the project co-designs risk assessment and mitigation measures in conjunction with farmers on the basis of biophysical, economic cost, transaction cost and farmer behaviour perspectives, before trialling these measures on a wider cohort of farms, with the help of Knowledge Transfer practitioners to develop and refine a Knowledge Transfer template.

The project also provides options for scaling up the implementation of proposed measures, based on expert opinion.

At a national scale, the project examines the roles and interactions of all the actors (institutions) involved in the agri-food production value chain, in order to examine how the information flows and the structure of future programmes could be improved to facilitate further sustainable development and intensification of Irish agriculture.

Funded by: EPA Research & Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine 

See also: EPA Water Section

WaterMARKE Project Partners:


Dr. Mary Ryan - Project Coordinator - Rural Economy & Development Programme, Athenry, Co. Galway 
Dr. Karen Daly - Crops, Environment and Land Use Programme, Johnstown Castle, Co. Wexford 
Prof. Owen Fenton - Crops, Environment and Land Use Programme, Johnstown Castle, Co. Wexford 
Mr. Pat Murphy - Environment Knowledge Transfer (Head), Johnstown Castle, Co. Wexford 
Mr. Eddie Burgess - Manager Agricultural Catchments Project (ACP), Johnstown Castle, Co. Wexford 
Mr. Tim Hyde - Environment Knowledge Transfer Specialist, Ballinalsoe, Co Galway 
Thomas Moloney – WaterMARKE Bio-physical Post-doc – Johnstown Castle, Co. Wexford 
Mr Noel Meehan, ASSAP Coordinator, Teagasc, Ballinasloe, Co. Galway 

National University of Ireland, Galway:

Prof. Cathal O’Donoghue - Dean of Arts, Social Sciences & Celtic Studies 
Dr. Denis O’Hora - School of Psychology 
Dr. Jenny McSharry - School of Psychology
Ms. Rossella DiDomenica – Psychology PhD student

University College Dublin:

Prof. Suzanne Kingston - Sutherland School of Law 

The Local Authority Waters and Communities Office:

Dr. Catherine Seale - Community Water Officer, Galway www.watersandcommunities.ie 

National Rural Network:

Dr. Maura Farrell - National University of Ireland, Galway www.nationalruralnetwork.ie

Scotland’s Rural College, Edinburgh (SRUC):

Prof. Andrew Barnes 

Follow the WaterMarke Project on Twitter 

This project is funded under the EPA Research Programme 2014-2020. The EPA Research Programme is a Government of Ireland initiative funded by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

DISCLAIMER: Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the material contained in this webpage, complete accuracy cannot be guaranteed. Neither the Environmental Protection Agency nor the authors accept any responsibility whatsoever for loss or damage occasioned or claimed to have been occasioned, in part or in full, as a consequence of any person acting or refraining from acting, as a result of a matter contained in this webpage.”