Catchment News

LEADER – Working with water and biodiversity: a guide for community groups

The Local Authority Waters Programme has written guidance for communities on environmental projects that can be funded through the LEADER programme 2014-2020.

The cover of the new Water and Biodiversity booklet, featuring Upper Glendalough lake on the hottest day of 2018. Photo: Fran Igoe.

This booklet has a full guide for anyone who is thinking of applying for LEADER funding for water or biodiversity projects. It includes examples and ideas for potential projects:

Think projects….…think river catchments
Planting of native wildflowers and vegetation in a habitat restoration projectFish passage projects
Silt trapping or ‘Slow the flow’ Natural Water Retention Measures, such as the addition of large woody debris to drainsTree planting and riparian biodiversity work
Rain gardens and Sustainable Urban Drainage Schemes (SuDS)Citizen science led by anglers
Innovating monitoring techniquesBespoke breeding boxes for birds and mammals
Rainwater harvesting on roof of buildings and use of recycled waterWetlands to promote wildlife and reduce pollution and flooding
Coastal or lake nature safari and stewardship project by local anglers and recreational water usersRemoval of invasive species and biosecurity planning
Putting a plan together: feasibility studies and planning involving
the catchment community
Outdoor biodiversity classroom

Protecting and enhancing water quality in a community can have many benefits for people living locally: we all want to have good water. All our waterways are important, and work can be on everything from a small drain or stream to larger waterways such as rivers, lakes and coastal waters.

Ireland has some of the best waters in Europe, including High Status waters which are especially important for species like Atlantic salmon and Freshwater Pearl Mussels. Lots of our wildlife is now threatened with extinction and needs active support from communities all around Ireland. This booklet is an excellent guide to what your community can do.

Learn more:

Hard copies of Working with water and biodiversity: a guide for community groups are available from the Local Authority Waters Programme – email or contact your local Community Water Officer.

Wildflowers for nature: wildflower meadows are beautiful and can help bees and other pollinators thrive.

LEADER: enabling community-led rural development

Since its launch in 1991, LEADER has provided rural communities across the European Union with the resources to enable local partners to actively engage and direct the local development of their area, through community-led local development. In Ireland, under the LEADER Programme for 2014-2020, a budget of €250 million in grant aid is being provided to support rural communities and local businesses.

The LEADER Programme is administered at a local level by 29 Local Action Groups (LAGs) who operate on administrative or county boundaries and are made up of local representatives from the community, public and private sector.

Each Local Action Groups is responsible for selecting and awarding LEADER funding to projects within their geographical area. A project must be aligned with the priorities of the Local Development Strategy (LDS). The LDS is a 5-year plan that was developed by the Local Action Groups, in conjunction with the rural community, to support the sustainable development of the area.

Grants are provided under the following themes and sub-themes:

  • Economic Development, Enterprise Development and Job Creation
    • Rural tourism; Enterprise development; Rural towns; Broadband
  • Social Inclusion
    • Basic services targeted at hard to reach communities; Rural youth
  • Rural Environment
    • Protection and sustainable use of water resources; Protection and improvement of biodiversity; Development of renewable energy

All of the LEADER themes have some relevance to water. Different
types of projects can be grant aided. These include:

  • Training projects – up to 100% of a project can be grant funded
  • Analysis and development – up to 90% of a project can be grant funded
  • Capital projects – up to 50% grant aid for private project promoters, and up to 75% grant aid for community project promoters

In early 2018, the Local Authority Waters Programme (LAWPRO) met with the Department of Community and Rural Development to discuss how communities could better access LEADER funding for environmental projects. This followed an analysis by LAWPRO, based on discussions with community groups and potential applicants, the National Rural Network, LEADER company staff and CEOs on barriers limiting community take-up under the rural theme. The need for planning permissions and other associated requirements to be in place prior to the awarding of capital projects in environmentally sensitive areas was highlighted as a key blockage. This made projects in these areas more expensive and less attractive for groups to champion. To address this, LEADER rules have been changed so that permissions, Environmental Impact Statements, and Appropriate Assessments for projects under the Rural Environment theme can now be funded under LEADER.

Learn more:

Hard copies of Working with water and biodiversity: a guide for community groups are available from the Local Authority Waters Programme – email or contact your local Community Water Officer.

Putting up nest boxes for the Dipper, a charismatic river bird and an indicator of
clean water.

Who is involved?

Quite simply, everyone in Ireland has a role to play. This can be from something as simple as making sure you don’t pollute your local stream, or a local community working together to establish a Rivers Trust to enhance the rivers and lakes in their area, to a Government Department or Agency helping a Minister implement a new policy to help protect and enhance all our water bodies.

This website has been developed and is maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency, and is a collaboration between the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Local Authority Waters Programme.


Local Authority Waters Programme

The Local Authority Waters Programme coordinates the efforts of local authorities and other public bodies in the implementation of the River Basin Management Plan, and supports local community and stakeholder involvement in managing our natural waters, for everyone’s benefit.


Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA is responsible for coordinating the monitoring, assessment and reporting on the status of our 4,842 water bodies, looking at trends and changes, determining which waterbodies are at risk and what could be causing this, and drafting environmental objectives for each.


Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage

The Department is responsible for making sure that the right policies, regulations and resources are in place to implement the Water Framework Directive, and developing a River Basin Management Plan and Programme of Measures to protect and restore our waters.