There were no exceedances for pesticides in the public drinking water supplies in County Westmeath in 2021, Irish Water has confirmed.
However, the utility is urging domestic gardeners, farmers, grounds keepers and other users of pesticide products to consider the environment and whether pesticide use is necessary in the first instance.
MCPA is still the most commonly detected pesticide in drinking water sources and is present in many commonly used herbicide products used to control thistles, docks and rushes. However, it often ends up in drinking water supplies. Irish Water is asking users of any herbicide or pesticide products in Co Westmeath to consider the vulnerability of the water supplies to pesticide contamination and the importance of these supplies to the local homes and businesses in the community.
Irish Water, working in partnership with a range of organisations involved in the NPDWAG, is asking the farming community, greens keepers, grounds keepers, and also domestic users of pesticides, to consider in each case whether they need to use pesticides at all.
Minimising pesticide use not only helps to protect water quality but also has wider environmental benefits. For example, leaving areas unsprayed can help native flowering plant species to grow and support a range of insects including bees and other vital pollinators.
One third of Ireland’s bee species are threatened with extinction and by helping the bee population survive and thrive we are also helping to protect our precious water sources. For more information on practical ways to help bees and other pollinators, check out the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan at www.pollinators.ie Farmers should also bear in mind that application of herbicides reduces sward species diversity and could negatively impact on payments in future agri-environmental schemes.
Where pesticide use is considered necessary, the NPDWAG is working with local communities to ensure that best practice measures to protect drinking water sources and biodiversity are always followed. Farmers and other landholders dealing with the challenge of rushes should note Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM ) guidance on the sustainable management of rushes. This approach is based on the concepts of containment or suppression, and aims to minimise the use of pesticides. More information on this can be obtained from your local farm advisor or on www.pcs.agriculture.gov.ie/sud/waterprotection
The NPDWAG is chaired by the DAFM and involves key stakeholders from a range of Government departments and agencies, local authorities, industry representative bodies, farming organisation, water sector organisations and amenity sector organisations.
“In County Westmeath, there have been no exceedances for pesticides in the past three years which is POSITIVE news.
“While our consultation with the HSE has concluded that the levels of pesticides that are being detected in drinking water supplies across the country do not represent a threat to public health, it is however undesirable and therefore imperative that users of pesticides are mindful of best practice when using herbicides or pesticides and seek out alternatives,” Andrew Boylan, Irish Water’s Regional Drinking Water Compliance Specialist, said.
If pesticides have to be used, the basic steps to reduce risks to drinking water sources and the aquatic environment are:
Choose the right pesticide product (note that products containing MCPA are NOT approved for use in weed-wipers, and are not permitted to be used from the end of September until the beginning of March )
Read and follow the product label
Determine the right amount to purchase and use
Don’t use pesticides if rain 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 and drainage ditches
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.
Never fill a sprayer directly from a water course or carry out mixing, loading or other handling operations beside a water course