A three-year project, WaterPro, undertaken by nine main partners from Northern Europe including the Lough Neagh Partnership, has now ended.
The project which researched practical methods to reduce farming and mining nitrate run off, was part of EU Northern Peripheries Transnational Interreg Programme. Partners were from the Faroe Islands, Finland, Iceland, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Sweden, and the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute in Northern Ireland.
The project included two recent seminars at Oxford Island where the results of the research was explained to local and national stakeholders who are involved in helping improve water quality.
By coincidence, the seminar occurred just as the water quality on Lough Neagh was deemed as having improved from ‘bad’ to ‘poor’, indicating that although this is positive news for the lough, there is still much work to be done. The Lough Neagh Partnership is now working with over 60 farmers along the shoreline helping them apply and participate in the DAERA Environmental Farm Scheme and is now starting to share this best practice water quality information from the WaterPro programme
Gerry Darby, Strategic Manager at Lough Neagh Partnership, said: “Participation on the WaterPro project has enabled our team to work with some of the leading Northern European countries on water quality, hosting partner conferences in Northern Ireland and attending various working seminars. It will help us develop new practical tools and models for future good water quality management. Whilst the improvement of water quality on Lough Neagh is not as a direct result of Lough Neagh Partnership’s participation on the project, our involvement in the project has been invaluable.”
Lough Neagh Partnership also hosted a major innovative ecosystem services conference, as part of the WaterPro project, focusing on the value of the economic, social and environmental services that are supplied from Oxford Island.
The conference demonstrated the value of the full range of services provided by important landscapes like Oxford Island, from the rich diversity of its wetland habitats and species, to the provision of quality educational and recreational services. The monetary benefits of this great natural resource were also identified, indicating that the annual economic value of the services provided from Oxford Island were over £2.3 million.
The final seminar in the WaterPro project was held at the end of May, providing delegates from Lough Neagh Partnership with an opportunity to attend an international conference in Finland, where the final conclusions of the water quality research were presented.
Gerry added: “This three-year European project has brought together like minded partners who otherwise may not have had an opportunity to connect and I am confident that every one of those partners involved will be able to further benefit from the learnings and findings well into the future.”
Lough Neagh Partnership is a non-profit charity made up of representative bodies and stakeholders responsible for the integrated management and protection of the Lough. It oversees six programmes in total, including a £3.5 million HLF Landscape Scheme which aims to protect the built, cultural and natural heritage of the Lough.