Blue DropletThe Project

Source to Tap is an innovative partnership project working to improve the health of waterways in the cross-border catchments of the Erne and Derg rivers. Through the development of sustainable, catchment-scale solutions, we aim to find effective ways to protect our rivers and lakes. In doing so, we will be helping to protect sources of drinking water on the island of Ireland.
Source to Tap will trial various land management measures in forestry, peatland and agriculture. These pilot projects aim to deliver cost effective strategies for improving the health of our freshwater environments. Alongside this, our learning and outreach programme will inform the public about their critical role in protecting our waterways, with the hope of empowering communities into action for clean and healthy rivers; the source of their drinking water.

The project runs from 2017 to 2022. It is funded by the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme, the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in Northern Ireland, and the Department for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (DHLGH) in Ireland. It is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).

Why the Erne and Derg River Catchments?

The River Erne catchment (covering 4353km2) and River Derg catchment (covering 438km2) are significant sources for public drinking water supply in both Ireland and Northern Ireland.  They have been chosen because risks to these drinking water sources have been identified in both countries. “Raw water” abstracted from watercourses (rivers, streams lakes) often contains contaminants in the form of herbicides, organic colour and sediment. Human activities (including agriculture, forestry and industry) are often the cause of these contaminants entering the water source. These contaminants must be removed in Water Treatment Works to provide drinking water that meets the standards set out in EU Drinking Water Regulations.

There is considerable evidence that it is more cost effective to reduce contaminants in run-off from the land than to build costly treatment solutions at the Water Treatment Works. There are additional benefits to improving water quality at source: the provision of healthy freshwater habitats for wildlife and cleaner rivers for recreational use. Catchment-scale land management can therefore bring not only environmental advantages, but also social and economic benefits too.

What will the project do long-term?

What is trialled and what has been learned will be collated into a Sustainable Catchment Area Management Plan (known as a SCAMP), which will be the legacy of the project. This will allow the successes of the project to be replicated in other drinking water catchments in Ireland, the UK and beyond.

Learning for Water

What? Working with schools and the local community to highlight the important connection between our rivers and lakes and what comes out of the tap.

How? School education programme aimed at upper Primary and lower Secondary children; development of a School Activity Booklet, Road Shows, Seminars, Information Exchange Events, attending agricultural shows and community fayres

Why? To educate people of the important connection between our rivers and lakes and what comes out of the tap.

Farming for Water

What? Helping our farmers to adopt sustainable land management practices that help reduce herbicide residue and soil escaping from the land into rivers, through the implementation of a cross-border Land Incentive Scheme (LIS).

How? Trialling a cross-border pilot Land Incentive Scheme (LIS) in the River Derg catchment, providing incentives to land owners and farmers to deliver more sustainable land management.

Why? To reduce erosion, sediment run-off and pollution from herbicides, helping to protect raw water quality and contribute to improved WFD status. 

Forests for Water

What? Trialling various mitigation measures to reduce soil erosion and sediment run-off to our rivers and lakes from forestry activity.

How? Through the construction of settlement ponds/sediment traps of different sizes and filtering of the runoff from the forestry operation sites through various media – e.g. straw bales.

Why? To reduce forestry impacts where there is a risk to raw water quality.

Peatlands for Water

What? Restoring an area of previously forested peatland to improve the health of the bog and reduce soil run-off to rivers and lakes.

How? Restoration of 135ha of previously afforested peat bog areas adjacent to watercourses on Forest Service NI land to provide peat dams preventing sediment run-off into rivers in the Erne and Derg Catchments.

Why? To improve habitats and water quality through reduced erosion and sediment run–off, which will contribute to improved WFD status.

Love your Water

What? Citizen science and volunteering opportunities that encourages people to get involved in protecting and improving our rivers and lakes, that are the sources of our drinking water and home to our precious wildlife.

How? Providing training to the community to upskill them in water quality monitoring and improvement, including the establishment of a community-led volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Initiative.

Why? To engage and upskill local people in the protection of their own freshwater environment and creating a lasting legacy in the project area.

Who's Involved

Northern Ireland Water

We are a Government Owned Company, set up to provide the water and sewerage services in Northern Ireland. We supply around 840,000 customers with approximately 560 million litres of good quality drinking water every day.

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Irish Water

We are the national water utility in Ireland with responsibility for all public water and wastewater services, including maintenance and management of the water networks and the delivery of water and wastewater capital investment programmes.

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Agri-Food & Biosciences Institute

We carry out high technology research and development, statutory, analytical & diagnostic testing and consultancy work for Government and commercial companies globally.

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East Border Region

We are a Local Authority-led cross-border network that promotes innovative, cross-border economic development in agriculture, Industry, commerce and tourism to improve the living conditions and employment prospects of those living in the region.

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Ulster University

We have an international reputation for excellence and innovation, making a major contribution to Northern Ireland's economic, social and cultural development through teaching & learning, widening access to education, research & innovation and technology & knowledge transfer.

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The Rivers Trust

We are the umbrella body for the rivers trust movement in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland. We work locally, with rivers trusts, to restore and protect rivers for the benefit of the community and environment.

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