Catchment News

National Federation of Group Water Schemes – Biodiversity Framework

Group Water Schemes are community owned rural groups supplying drinking water to their local members. Adrian Smyth tells us how the National Federation of Group Water Schemes have developed a biodiversity framework for their sites. These sites are spread out around the country and could be havens for wildlife like bees and insects all across Ireland.

A wholesome and safe water supply is best assured where it is abstracted from a healthy environment. Aside from the intrinsic value of a healthy environment, there is a direct correlation between the environmental health of a source catchment and the cost of producing drinking water. Key measures of an environmentally healthy source catchment include the ecosystems and biodiversity that it supports.

Following a pilot project conducted by Ashill Group Water Scheme in 2018, the NFGWS signed up to the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan, recognising that the implementation of biodiversity enhancement measures on group water schemes could have a positive impact on water quality, ecosystem regeneration and on community engagement with their local group water scheme. As part of this pilot, the National Biodiversity Data Centre, in collaboration with the NFGWS, developed a comprehensive guide to assist with the implementation of biodiversity-friendly measures around group water scheme pumphouses/sites. Launched at the Rural Water Conference in 2019, this guide observes that:

Group water scheme sites are secure sites that are not grazed. If they were managed in a pollinator-friendly way, it would create an entire network of safe places for bees and other insects across the landscape. The positive impact this could have is enormous.

The aim of the newly released NFGWS biodiversity enhancement framework document is to build on the existing resources currently in place for Group Water Schemes and to provide a generic framework for the overall enhancement of biodiversity in and around group water scheme sites. It takes account of and builds on the progress made in the area of water resources management and source protection in recent years, the availability of new information and maps and lessons learned. The objectives are to:

  • provide a high-level vision and structure for biodiversity enhancement on Group Water Schemes
  • integrate and link biodiversity enhancement to drinking water source protection
  • integrate and link biodiversity enhancement to wider community education goals
  • environmentally proofing capital projects to ensure their impact in minimised
  • link with and expand on the NFGWS Strategy for Source Protection on Group Water Schemes (NFGWS, 2012a) and the NFGWS Quality Assurance (HACCP) system (NFGWS, 2012b)
  • provide a focused narrative that will be used in public consultation and collaboration

Adrian Smyth, National Federation of Group Water Schemes

Learn more:

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.