There were no pesticide exceedances in public drinking water supplies in Westmeath or Roscommon in 2021, Irish Water has confirmed. However, the utility urges home gardeners, farmers, groundskeepers and other users of pesticide products to consider the environment and determine if pesticide use is necessary in the first place.
MCPA is still the most commonly detected pesticide in drinking water sources and is present in many herbicide products commonly used to control thistles, docks and bulrushes. It often ends up in the drinking water supply.
Irish Water asks users of any herbicide or pesticide product to consider the vulnerability of the water supply to pesticide contamination and the importance of the supply to local homes and businesses.
Irish Water, working in partnership with a range of organizations involved in the National Pesticides and Drinking Water Action Group (NPDWAG), is calling on the farming community, green space custodians, groundskeepers, as well as domestic users of pesticides, to consider in each case whether they need to use pesticides.
Minimizing the use of pesticides not only helps protect water quality, but also has wider environmental benefits. For example, leaving areas unsprayed can help native flowering plant species thrive and support a range of insects, including bees and other vital pollinators.
A third of Ireland’s bee species are threatened with extinction and by helping the bee population to survive and thrive, we are also helping to protect precious water sources.
For more information on practical ways to help bees and other pollinators, see the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan at www.pollinators.ie.
Farmers should also bear in mind that the application of herbicides reduces plant species diversity and could negatively affect payments under future agri-environment schemes.
When the use of pesticides is deemed necessary, the NPDWAG works with communities to ensure that best practices to protect drinking water sources and biodiversity are always followed.
Farmers and other landowners facing rushes should take note of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine (DAFM) guidelines on sustainable management of rushes.
This approach is based on the concepts of containment or suppression, and aims to minimize the use of pesticides.
More information on this can be obtained from your local agricultural adviser or at www.pcs.agriculture.gov.ie/sud/waterprotection
The NPDWAG is chaired by DAFM and involves key stakeholders from a range of government departments and agencies, local authorities, industry representative bodies, agricultural organizations, water and equipment sector organisations.
Andrew Boylan, Irish Water’s Regional Drinking Water Compliance Specialist, said: “At Westmeath there have been no pesticide exceedances in the last three years which is good news.
“Although our consultation with the HSE concluded that the levels of pesticides detected in drinking water supplies across the country do not pose a threat to public health, it is undesirable and therefore imperative that users of pesticides be aware of best practices when using herbicides or pesticides and look for alternatives.
Dr Aidan Moody, DAFM and Chairman of NPDWAG, added: “We need the continued commitment of all stakeholders, working in partnership, to make further progress. Pesticide users should always consider alternatives first and if pesticide application is considered essential, ensure they are following best practices to protect water quality.
If pesticides are to be used, basic measures to reduce risks to drinking water sources and the aquatic environment include:
• Choose the right pesticide product (note that products containing MCPA are NOT approved for use in weedkillers and cannot be used from late September to early March)
• Read and follow the product label
• Determine the right amount to buy and use
• Do not use pesticides if rain is forecast within the next 48 hours
• Make sure you know the location of all nearby waterways
• Comply with any buffer zones specified on the product label to protect the aquatic environment. Delimit the specified buffer zone from the edge of the river or lake or other watercourse and drainage ditches
• Avoid spills, stay away from open sewers and rinse empty containers 3 times in the sprayer.
• Properly store and dispose of pesticides and their containers.
• Never fill a sprayer directly from a watercourse or perform mixing, loading or other handling operations next to a watercourse.
• A video on best practices for the use and application of products containing MCPA can be viewed on the Irish Water YouTube channel.
• Information brochures on the use of pesticides can also be downloaded from the Teagasc website.
• A guide providing 10 simple steps to responsible pesticide use in public spaces, amenities and gardens is available here.