Catchment Care Celebration Event

Tuesday, 25 April 2023
CatchmentCARE Project Team along with Ella McSweeny and Joe Mahon

CatchmentCARE Project Team along with Ella McSweeny and Joe Mahon


A recent event in Donegal highlighted the significant contribution that a major cross-border project has made to restoring water quality in three important cross-border river catchments.

Catchment Care Celebration Event

The CatchmentCARE conference, which took place on Thursday (20th April) at the Villa Rose Hotel in Ballybofey, Donegal offered a unique opportunity for attendees to learn more about the project, network with other professionals in the industry, and celebrate its collective achievements. The event featured keynote speakers, panel discussions, and interactive exhibits showcasing the various components of the project.

Funded by the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme in the amount of €13.8million, which is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body, the CatchmentCARE project aimed to improve freshwater quality in the Finn, Blackwater and Arney river catchments through the development of water quality improvement projects. The project also included the installation of fifty boreholes across the region to monitor water quality. The Project also provided a platform for cross border engagement and knowledge sharing between community, governance, policy and scientific shareholders.

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O Brien, TD said:

“Whilst today marks the end of the formal collaboration on this project, I have no doubt that the partnerships formed during its lifetime to not only benefit the local community today but protect and enhance environmental wellness for generations into the future. 

Today’s conference is an opportunity for the partners and the community to share achievements and best practice experiences, giving further insight into the tangible impact the CatchmentCARE project has had in this cross-border region.”

Gina McIntyre, Chief Executive of SEUPB said:.

“We are very proud to have supported CatchmentCARE as part of the INTERREG VA programme, which represents five years of innovative and effective cross-border co-operation and almost €14million investment in the natural environment, our planet and our people. I want to thank the eight partners that have driven this project. Their work will ensure there is long-lasting impact and a positive legacy for communities across the region to look after their local water systems.”

Welcoming participants to a celebration event at the Villa Rose Hotel in Ballybofey, Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council Cllr. Liam Blaney said:

“As we all know, River catchments transcend borders and to address the challenges faced in declining water quality we must take an integrated and holistic approach. In this case, that challenge was met by that partnership of eight organisations which were all committed to making improvements in water quality in our rivers and lakes. I am delighted that Donegal County Council were a part of and indeed led that partnership”.

Speakers at the event outlined the successes under each core action, which included:

Community Action and Outreach - community actions took place across the Arney, Blackwater and the Finn, where the project supported innovative approaches to Knowledge Exchange. These brought together those with long term visions of sustainable catchment management, whilst supporting projects that included different stakeholders such as farmers, anglers, community groups and local schools. This bottom-up approach took into account local needs, knowledge, experience, and instilled the further commitment of local communities to the protection of their local river systems, catchment and associated water bodies.

Ecosystem Actions - CatchmentCARE also delivered a range of targeted works on river and lake systems. These included a focus on improving in-stream habitats, river connectivity, riparian zones and on reducing the internal loading of phosphorus in lakes.  Practical measures undertaken included various in-stream & riparian works in conjunction with landowners and statutory bodies, which will have a measurable effect on the status of water quality in line with current Water Framework Directive (WFD) targets. The project also investigated Chemical Export issues relating to sheep dip and forestry operations and explored mitigating measures to alleviate the pressures of these activities on local rivers. Research was also carried out on local lakes to ascertain the feasibility of phosphorus-fixing using aluminium and iron salts as a remedial action. Another aspect of the project was to explore the impact of wastewater treatment works and diffuse agricultural pollution in each catchment. The focus was on breaking the hydrological connection between the land and water bodies using strategically targeted willow and riparian zones.

Building Resilience - Fifty (50) groundwater monitoring wells were designed and installed across the border region, helping to characterise aquifers and conduct baseline surveys of water quality, whilst investigating the interaction with surface water bodies as a post project legacy. Farm nutrient management practices were also explored and evaluated as part of the project in the form of intensive farmyard studies, which resulted in detailed monitoring of farm nutrient practices. A range of soil sampling to ascertain Phosphorus loading on farmland was also carried out on local farms, resulting in detailed nutrient control programmes being developed for participating farmers.

Closing the conference, well known TV presenter and broadcaster Joe Mahon provided some thought-provoking insights from his own ‘Lesser Spotted Journeys’ and on our shared responsibility to improving water quality and ensuring healthy water catchments for all.

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