Wexford: Duncannon school children working to understand their local streams and getting their community involved
Fran Igoe tells us how the local community in Duncannon, County Wexford have been working together to understand their local streams and beach, and what they can do to improve their water quality.
Bringing about water quality improvements in Priority Areas for Action (PAAs) requires a good knowledge of the pressures impacting on water quality, and the identification of practical solutions to address them. This should be accompanied with local community engagement and wider stakeholder participation, ideally from the onset.
In Duncannon, considerable work has been undertaken by Wexford County Council to address water quality issues affecting the beach at Duncannon, and its Blue Flag. Duncannon is within the Waterford Harbour Priority Areas for Action, one of 190 Priority Areas for Action nationally. The work by Wexford County Council has culminated in the successful award of a European Innovation Project, which will focus on locally-led solutions for water quality in the area.
To help set the scene, government organisations collaborated with local school children and their families to promote awareness of the uniqueness of the area, and showcase the wonderful life that exists in the small coastal streams.
Wexford County Council had already organised a citizen science water bug awareness workshop for local farmers with the support of Department of Agriculture funding. The LA Waters Programme then built on this, working with Wexford County Council and Inland Fisheries Ireland to deliver a classroom talk in Duncannon National School.
The discussions focused on the importance of these local streams for a range of aquatic life, especially as breeding grounds for sea trout, together with the need to ensure that they are kept clean as they also flow onto the beach, which recently lost its Blue Flag.
In the afternoon, the kids were taken on a field trip out to one of the local streams and shown the water bug kick sampling monitoring technique. They discovered the range of water bugs that can be found, even in small streams less than two metres wide. These water bugs included mayfly, which are very sensitive to pollution, and more tolerant species such as water shrimp. All are important fish food of course!
This was followed by a discussion on hydromorphology, which means the physical shape of the river and its banks, and the importance of the riverside plant life to the health of streams. The highlight of the day was the capture of a young salmon (returned of course) when Fisheries Officer Declan Cullagh carried out a demonstration of the electrofishing technique used by Inland Fisheries Ireland to monitor fish in our rivers. Three-spined sticklebacks were also caught to everyone’s delight.
Commenting on the initiative, St Oliver’s National School Principal Martin Lyons stated “this was a very enjoyable day and the stude
learnt a lot about their own environment which is so important as it is their heritage. Perhaps you might come back and bring out the other classes and organise a source to sea event and maybe bring in Bannow Bay too.” We just might do that…
Special thanks to Wexford Co Council, Inland Fisheries Ireland, Martin Lyons and the teachers of St Oliver’s National School, Duncannon, the children’s parents for assisting in organising the event and of course the kids themselves for being such great sports.
Events like these working with local communities are very important, and we would like to encourage community and agency collaborations across the country, especially in other Priority Areas for Action.
Fran Igoe, Local Authority Waters Programme Southern Coordinator
Information about the Duncannon Blue Flag Farming and Communities European innovation Project is available from the National Rural Network www.nationalruralnetwork.ie/eip-agri
You can also follow the Duncannon EIP project on Twitter: twitter.com/DuncannonEIP