In Ireland, we are never far from at least one…
What does citizen science, a local water champion and Lipton tea bags have in common?
This is the story of Enda Fields and his lifelong interest in his local water environment. Enda has a long lasting interest and connection with Emy Lough, Co. Monaghan, a local fishery and a Water Framework Directive designated lake within the Ulster Blackwater catchment. He is currently the Youth Development Officer with Emy and District Anglers and also Treasurer of Emyvale Tidy Towns Committee.
The work Enda and the local communities in Monaghan have been involved in ranges from local stream clean ups to an international Citizen Science project (involving Lipton Nylon Tea Bags). It is hoped that learning about these initiatives may inspire communities in other areas with an interest in managing their local water environment.
Citizen Science Project
Enda’s most recent undertaking is the international Netlake Citizen Science Project, comparing water temperature, water colour, litter decomposition rates and microplastics in 25 lakes across Europe during 2016. The project is led by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Science, with Dundalk Institute of Technology, Freshwater Studies Centre as the lead Irish partner.
Following training in Czech Republic earlier this year, Enda is now confidently undertaking lake monitoring using the following measurement techniques:
- Lake Colour – colour measured using Forel-Ule scale and a mobile phone app ‘Eye on Water’.
- Water Transparency using a Secchi disk.
- Lake weed analysis of the Common Reed.
- Lake Temperature using ibuttons.
- Litter Decomposition rates, using 48 Lipton Nylon Tea Bags.
- Microplastics (using nylon stockings).
This project is in its early stages of water monitoring and tea bags are due to be lifted from Emy Lough later this month (August), dried and weighed. For further information, see www.nioo. knaw.nl/Netlake-Citizen-Science
Enda’s interest in angling began at Emy Lough, in the early 1980’s – he remembers when the lake and feeder stream had excellent stocks of wild brown trout. However, drainage on the Mountain Water millrace, alterations to a weir and pollution of the river (especially nutrients) all contributed to the demise of this wild trout fishery. To try and change this, Emy and District Angling Club decided to partner with Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) in 2008 on a joint management arrangement for Emy Lough. A car park and jetty was built in 2009 and since then the lake is stocked annually with rainbow or brown trout. The club’s membership of 70 adults and 10 youths and the many visiting anglers can now enjoy fly fishing on the lake. Emy Lough is a modified lake, with an outflow controlled by a manual sluice gate and fed by a mill race from the Mountain Water river. The lake historically supported the local flax milling industry throughout the last century.
River Restoration Works
Enda initiated some river restoration works in the overgrown mill race in 2010 to support the recruitment of wild brown trout into the lake. The first step involved a river clean up as part of An Taisce’s National Spring Clean. Emyvale Tidy Towns volunteers, which included some young anglers, removed blockages, excess vegetation and rubbish from the stream.
Two years later, the Emy & District Anglers applied to the national Environment Fund to improve fish spawning beds. They received €750 and purchased 8 tonnes of special gravels from the Cooley Mountains and with assistance from Inland Fisheries Ireland and the support of local volunteers they carried out the instream improvement works.
Enda coordinated a StreamScapes Water Awareness workshop in 2015. Earlier this year, he attended the Public Participation Network funding workshop and successfully applied for €500 on behalf of the Angling Club from the Local Authority Community Fund. Community groups should get in touch with their local Public Participation Workshop and avail of these funding workshops.
It’s now recognised that more restoration work is needed to further improve the main river channel and make the local fishery self-sustaining. With this in mind, the angling club joined the newly formed River Blackwater Catchment Trust in 2014 to support the focus on the wider river catchment management.
Supporting Youth Angling Projects
As Youth Development Officer with Emy and District Angling Club, Enda has organised workshops for young anglers through the Trout Angler Federation of Ireland (TAFI).
The club has also participated in the Monaghan PEACE lll Project, assisted by TAFI and IFI, linking young anglers from across the border in fishing workshops, learning boating skills, fly casting and care for the natural environment. Following the StreamScapes Water Awareness workshop, and with the support of Monaghan County Council, Enda has taken young anglers to a trout hatchery in Northern Ireland. The World Youth Angling Championship was held at Emy Lough in 2013, attracting visitors from South Africa, France, America, Poland, Spain, Czech Republic, Scotland. Again this event was supported by IFI, TAFI and ‘The Gathering’.
Further community projects
A 4km walkway amenity, funded through LEADER and the local Donagh Development Association has been developed around Emy Lough and this is very popular both with walkers and runners.
A partnership is forming between Emyvale Tidy Towns, the Development Association and the Angling Club to help further improve local waters for amenity purposes and to enhance and link with wildlife habitats. For many years Emy Lough has also provided the local area with a drinking water source. This is managed by the Glaslough/ Tyholland Group Water Scheme and there is growing interest in reducing nutrient inputs to the lake, thereby improving the water quality.
Looking after our rivers and lakes and giving nature a hand can reap multiple benefits for local communities. It’s all about people with ideas, developing small projects and looking for opportunities to build local partnerships between communities and public bodies.
The Local Authority Waters and Communities Office
As Ireland enters the planning stage of the second cycle River Basin Management Plan, the newly formed Local Authority Waters and Communities Office has two key focus areas:
- To support local authorities in coordination of implementation of River Basin Management Plans and
- Mobilising community involvement in water quality management.
Throughout the entire country there are many excellent examples of individuals and community groups working on water management projects and many other community development initiatives with a focus on water quality.
Through this new office resources will be directed towards water quality education and awareness raising. The appointment of 12 Community Water Officers has now taken place and these will be working to actively engage with local communities and offer assistance with project start ups. It is hoped that more local water champions like Enda Fields can be identified and the lessons and experiences gained from their great work can be shared with other individuals or groups with an interest in improving their local water environment.