What's going on in river restoration in Ireland?

Guest blog - Andrew Griggs, CatchmentCARE

CatchmentCARE Project improving water quality

A major river restoration project has been taking place across the border counties of Ireland and Northern Ireland since 2017. The five year long CatchmentCARE project is helping to establish three cross-border, fresh water quality improvement projects in the Finn (Donegal—Tyrone); the Arney (Fermanagh-Leitrim-Cavan); and the Blackwater (Armagh-Tyrone-Monaghan) Catchments; as well as installing 51 boreholes across the region. The Project is funded under the Environment measure of the EU Interreg VA programme managed by the SEUPB with support from The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.

The project brings together eight partner organisations which is led by Donegal County Council, with the partnership also including Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, Inland Fisheries Ireland, Agri Foods & Bioscience Institute, Loughs Agency, Ulster University, British Geological Survey and Geological Survey Ireland.

The complexities inherent in the project are reflected in the seven different work packages included in the project design and also across a partnership of the eight organisations. This link to a project ‘story map’ expands on the project scope and the work package lead roles across the partnership. This can be viewed also in ‘Project Scope’ on the project website at www.catchmentcare.eu together with Catchment Characterisation Maps for each area at www.catchmentcare.eu/project-scope-2/catchment-characterisation-maps/

The work is addressing water quality issues related to hydromorphology, point and diffuse sources of pollution, farm nutrient management practices, characterisation and monitoring of groundwater quality, lag times in response to the implementation of measures and an economic analysis of the cost of achieving the objectives of the Water Framework Directive in the three catchments. To date a range of successful works has taken place across the project scope, including river improvement schemes, installation of groundwater monitoring stations, development and rollout of education programmes, community engagement work which includes the funding of 35 community based projects, development of soil sampling programmes and the providing of nutrient management advice to local farmers.

A range of Newsletters, advice sheets and videos have been produced as part of the project to help the various stakeholders understand how to help improve local water quality in the three catchments. These can be viewed at the following link - www.catchmentcare.eu/publications/

Community Incentive Scheme

The Projects ‘Community Incentive Scheme’ (CIS) has been successful to date in helping local communities contribute to the improved management of their river catchments by providing funding to a wide variety of organisations including volunteer groups, community groups, NGOs, schools and third level education organisations, youth groups and sports clubs, not for profit organisations and farming groups. Funding of up to €25,000 was available to help connect communities with their local rivers. Examples of the kind of projects supported in Phases 1 & 2 of the funding includes practical water-quality improvement projects, education and awareness campaigns, access to loughs and rivers for local communities, volunteer training, specialised equipment, community river trails, bio-blitzes, citizen science projects and interpretation and signage.

Find out more at - www.catchmentcare.eu/community-incentive-scheme/

River Improvement Works

One of the main outputs of the CatchmentCARE Project is to deliver a range of Riparian and In-Stream works aimed at helping improve existing water quality across the three catchments. Practical measures have included the Installation of fencing along rivers to help decrease erosion of banks by cattle, supplying and installing livestock drinkers for local farmers, installing field gates and stiles to provide access for farmers and local user groups, planting native species of trees and riverside vegetation to help stabilise riverbanks and create a buffer strip between the river and agricultural land and installing bank revetments and other in-stream works such as rubble mats and flow deflectors (to create a more diverse flow and habitat in the river channel). More on the river works can be found at –

Education Programmes

CatchmentCARE has developed a range of education programmes to support local schools, teachers and pupils in that process. Educators from the River Backwater Catchment Trust visited the schools where they delivered a range of topics. The programmes had been disrupted by the restrictions associated with the Coronavirus and attendance at classroom or to run off site trips during the pandemic not possible. In response to this, an online education programme was developed for use by schools and teachers. “The River” is a fun and informative look at rivers and is packed with activities, crafts, interviews and experiments to help young people understand more about their local rivers.

There are five episodes in the first series, each accompanied by a teacher’s pack and teacher notes. The programmes are linked to the NI curriculum at KS2 (P5 – P7) and the ROI curriculum (Classes 3, 4 and 5). The five episodes are as follows -

Episode 1 - “The River– Where it all begins”

Episode 2 - “How to build a river”

Episode 3 - “Creatures of the River”

Episode 4 - “The Magic Moving River”

Episode 5 - “All my fault!”

An introduction advert for ‘The River” can be viewed on our YouTube channel at:



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