Catchment News

Promoting pesticide best practice in key catchments

A targeted marketing campaign commenced in lat August across 11 marts covering priority catchments where pesticide exceedances are of concern for the National Pesticides and Drinking Water Action Group (NPDWAG).

A 30-second video will play on mart days during September, reminding farmers to use best practice when applying pesticides to their lands. The selected marts are in Kilkenny, Athenry, Ballyjamesduff, Fermoy, Castlerea, Kilmallock, Bandon, Castleisland, Ballybay, Roscommon and Ballinasloe.

The 30 second video being played in marts this month.

The National Pesticides and Drinking Water Action Group (NPDWAG) which is chaired by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, and whose members include Irish Water, Teagasc, the IFA, ICMSA, APHA, local authorities and many other organisations, have joined forces with Farm TV to promote best practice when using pesticides.

Great care must always be taken to protect drinking water supplies wherever pesticide use is considered necessary, particularly if using products for grassland weed control containing substances such as MCPA, fluroxypyr and 2,4-D. These substances and others have been detected in drinking water supplies across Ireland. While there is no threat to public health, the detected levels sometimes exceed the legally permitted limit value for pesticides in drinking water, which is set at an extremely low value (equivalent to one drop in an Olympic-sized swimming pool).

Irish Water, working in partnership with a range of organisations involved in the National Pesticides and Drinking Water Action Group (NPDWAG) is appealing to all users of pesticides including the farming community, sporting organisations and domestic users, to ensure that best practice measures to protect drinking waters are always followed.

There are currently seven priority catchment areas of particular concern where exceedances of pesticides are persistent. These areas cover:

  • the Lough Forbes catchment in Co Longford
  • the River Deel and River Feale catchments in Co Limerick
  • the Clonroche Water Supply in Co Wexford
  • the River Nore in Co Kilkenny
  • Lough Acanon in Co Cavan, and
  • the River Erne in Co Cavan.

All of these areas are being prioritised for action by members of the NPDWAG.

There is a separate watch list, currently comprising 30 supplies, which is also a focus for targeted actions, since the pattern of detections in these areas indicates a risk of persistent pesticide exceedances.

Efforts to reduce the incidence of detections are being coordinated by the NPDWAG. All of the key stakeholders are represented in this group and include Government departments and agencies; local authorities; industry representative bodies; farming organisations; water sector organisations; and amenity sector organisations. 

“While MCPA accounted for the majority (75 per cent) of pesticide exceedances detected nationally in public water supplies during 2018, Irish Water routinely tests for a wide range of pesticides and is closely monitoring the situation for pesticides other than MCPA. Irish Water is continuing its extensive investment programme to safeguard the water supply for homes, farms and businesses in Ireland. Providing safe, clean drinking water for all is our first priority. In Ireland, the majority (82 per cent) of drinking water supplies come from surface water sources such as rivers, lakes and streams. Supplies are vulnerable to contamination from land and animal run-off. Irish Water asks users of pesticide products to consider the vulnerability of their drinking water supply to pesticide contamination and the importance of this supply to the local community.”

Andrew Boylan, Irish Water’s Regional Drinking Water Compliance Specialist

“A lot of good work has been done and progress has been made. The continued engagement of all stakeholders, working in partnership, is needed to make further progress. Users of pesticides should always consider in the first instance if there are alternative non-chemical weed/pest control methods that would be feasible. If pesticides have to be applied users must make sure that they are aware of and follow best practice measures to protect water quality.”

Dr Aidan Moody, Chair of the NPDWAG

MCPA, which is commonly used to kill rushes on wet land, is the main offender, however, other pesticides such as 2,4-D, fluroxypyr and MCPP (also known as mecoprop) are being detected more frequently than in previous years. Careless storage, handling or improper application of any pesticide product can easily result in traces ending up in drinking water, leading to breaches of the drinking water regulations.  Users of pesticides are asked to carefully consider how these products may access water courses via rainwater drains, drainage channels or other means before application.

The regulations are so stringent that a single drop of pesticide is enough to breach the drinking water limit in a small stream for up to 30 kilometres. This clearly highlights the level of care needed to protect drinking water sources.

Irish Water working in partnership with the National Pesticides and Drinking Water Action Group would like to remind farmers and professional users of pesticides of the need to follow best practice in the application of pesticides, particularly near lakes and rivers used as drinking water sources.

The basic steps in reducing pesticide risks are:

  • Choose the right pesticide product (Note that products containing MCPA are NOT approved for use in weed-wipers)
  • Read and follow the product label
  • Determine the right amount to purchase and use
  • Don’t spray if rain or strong wind is forecast in the next 48 hours
  • Make sure you are aware of the location of all nearby water courses
  • Comply with any buffer zone specified on the product label to protect the aquatic environment. Mark out the specified buffer zone from the edge of the river or lake or other water course
  • Never fill a sprayer directly from a water course or carry out mixing, loading or other handling operations beside a water course
  • Avoid spills, stay well back from open drains and rinse empty containers 3 times into the sprayer
  • Store and dispose of pesticides and their containers properly
Control rushes using MCPA safely, correctly, and responsibly

Learn more:

Information leaflets on pesticide use are also available to download from the Teagasc website at

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.