Farming for Water


This webpage is part of the legacy website for the Source to Tap Project, supported by the European Union’s INTERREG VA, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB). This project has now come to an end and this site should be used for reference only.

What we do on the land has an effect on our rivers and streams.  This applies to everyone and everything we do, from what we pour down the drain at home, to what we use the land for near to our rivers. 

It is therefore not surprising that agriculture has a big influence on the quality of water in our rivers, that are often the source of our drinking water, used for recreation and are home to precious and sometimes rare wildlife.

Farming in a way that helps protect water quality can also be beneficial to the farm business, saving money and time.  For example, a fence along the river, preventing livestock access to the water, helps to protect the riverbanks from erosion, reducing the amount of soil and phosphate (which attaches to soil) entering the river. It also saves precious soils and nutrients from being lost from the farm, reduces lameness in cattle particularly, can help reduce cases of Liver Fluke, reduces the spread of Bovine Tuberculosis (TB) from neighbouring herds, reduces the amount of time spent looking for ‘wandering’ animals and reduces losses of livestock through drowning during flooding.  

In fact, many measures taken to protect water quality, like the fencing mentioned above, as well as, for example, installing spouting and drains to separate clean and dirty water, thereby reducing storage requirements, will often pay themselves back over a relatively short period and then begin to contribute to the profitability and sustainability of the farm business.

In each Source to Tap key theme, you can access informative instructional videos and guides on different water-friendly farming practices you can use on your farm to help protect water quality in nearby rivers and streams, as well as benefit your farm business.

Herbicide storage and handling

MCPA is the active ingredient in many of the products used to control the common rush and weeds such as Dock.

It is highly soluble in water and gets washed of the land to nearby watercourses, where is persists in the water environment for a long time.

Just 1 drop of MCPA is enough to raise the level of the chemical in a river above the safe drinking water limit for 30 kilometres!

Storing and handling pesticide on the farm correctly can prevent accidental spillages and pollution of nearby watercourses. It also helps to reduce wastage of costly chemicals on the farm.

This film explores how chemicals should be stored and handled correctly on the farm to protect the user, the farm business, and the water environment.

Controlling soft rush and while reducing herbicide loss to watercourses

The herbicide MCPA is the active ingredient in products commonly used to control the growth of soft rush in silage and grazing fields and is normally applied with a boom sprayer. This means that the chemical MCPA is applied to the whole field, even when rush is sparse, and is vulnerable to being washed off the land into nearby rivers and streams. While boom spraying it can also be caught by wind and drift on to non-target areas.

Meet the Experts! Rush Control Webinar

During the project lifetime we held rush control events to allow experts from Teagasc and CAFRE to share information about best practice. We also held a webinar rush control event. It can be viewed on YouTube by clicking the image above or here

Weed wiping provides a cost-effective and time-efficient alternative way of controlling rush, where chemical is applied directly and sparsely to the rush only. This film explores this and other methods of controlling soft rush that can benefit water quality and the farm business.

Livestock fencing and alternative watering facilities along watercourses

Excluding livestock from rivers and providing alternative drinking points helps to protect water quality as well as the health and wellbeing of livestock and efficiency and sustainability of the farm business.
Leaving a space of at least 2 metres between the fence line and the top of the riverbank will also provide added benefits for both the water environment and the farm business, as well as improving the lifespans of the fence itself.

This film explores the benefits of watercourse fencing to the farm business, and the water environment, as well as a range of alternative livestock watering facilities, including cattle operated pasture pumps and solar powered troughs.

Separating clean and dirty water

When clean rainwater falls onto a dirty yard, it becomes dirty water and must be collected, stored, and treated as such. This puts pressure on existing storage facilities, particularly during the winter months when rainfall is high, and it is not legal or possible to spread slurry and/or dirty water to the land.

This film explores how simple solutions such as installing gutters and down spouts to all farm buildings and separating clean areas from dirty areas on yards with separation channels and drains, can help reduce the volume of dirty water produced, alleviating storage pressures, and reduce incidents of spills and tank-overflows of dirty water to nearby watercourses.

Download our quick ‘how to’ guides below to help maintain water-friendly farming best practices


Click on the Peatland for Water logo above to find out about the importance of peatlands on farms and what can be done to help restore them.