‘Stop and think about the water you drink - Apply herbicides safely’

Weed-wiping in Eden Burn catchment near Ballymoney, County Antrim. L-R Victor Chestnutt (UFU) and Roy Taylor (NI Water).Weed-wiping in Eden Burn catchment near Ballymoney, County Antrim. L-R Victor Chestnutt (UFU) and Roy Taylor (NI Water).
Weed-wiping in Eden Burn catchment near Ballymoney, County Antrim. L-R Victor Chestnutt (UFU) and Roy Taylor (NI Water). | Freelance
As many readers are aware, the weed management herbicide MCPA, commonly used for the control of stubborn rush growths is currently the main challenge to raw water quality in Northern Ireland.

NI Water must remove this substance to provide safe and wholesome drinking water, and in order to comply with stringent Drinking Water Standards; it is challenging and costly for NI Water to remove at treatment stage.

NI Water established the Rush solution without Pollution weed-wiping service in 2017, working with The Water Catchment Partnership and the farming industry to help reduce levels of the herbicide MCPA in surface waters in County Armagh, and later Counties Tyrone and Antrim. It developed after the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) endorsed trials concluded the best way of treating rushes is by cutting and weed-wiping with glyphosate, employing best practice techniques at filling, application and disposal. This method produces less pollution in our waterways and controls rushes well.

The project has produced excellent results: average rush coverage is reduced by 60 percent, and a substantial reduction in MCPA applications on water catchments. But NI Water still have a lot of work to do, and they need your help!

Although trials are currently fully subscribed, NI Water and The Water Catchment Partnership would implore farmers to continue to use best practice techniques when using plant protection products, especially now when rush control is in the calendar.

They would encourage farmers to use weed-wiping as a method of grassland herbicide application using a certified weed-wiping contractor, to control rushes successfully and protect our water environment.

Another initiative led by NI Water in partnership with others to reduce the amount of weed management product entering our watercourses, is the Source to Tap project.

This project is funded through the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme which is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).

Within Source to Tap, farmers in the Derg catchment, upstream of NI Water’s water treatment works at Tievenny, can avail of 100 percent funding for weed wiping as part of a pilot Land Incentive Scheme.

This Scheme is designed to fund measures on farms, such as weed-wiping rushes and watercourse fencing to reduce the amount of herbicides and soil escaping to the River Derg that is a shared source of raw drinking water for communities in Counties Tyrone and Donegal.

If you would like further details about NI Water’s weed-wiping trials, please email [email protected].

Further information about the Source to Tap Project and the pilot Land Incentive Scheme can be found at www.sourcetotap.eu

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