Many Kilkenny waterways 'significantly impacted' by high nitrate and phosphorus levels

Christopher Dunne


Christopher Dunne


Many Kilkenny waterways impacted by high nitrogen and phosphorus levels

River Nore, Kilkenny

The Local Authority Waters Programme (LAWPRO) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Water Quality Report for 2019 was recently updated to include fresh research conducted locally and shows that Kilkenny waterways are growing nitrogen and phosphorous-heavy.

Research shows that water quality has deteriorated in the Nuenna River largely due to high levels of nitrogen, but also phosphorus.

LAWPRO are examining the wastewater treatment plant in Freshford as a source for phosphorus, but acknowledge it is not the only source.

Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advice Programme (ASSAP) have also identified the areas within the catchment that are contributing these nutrients and agricultural advisors are continuing to work with farmers in this catchment to identify where farmers should focus improvements and actions on their lands.

LAWPRO have carried out assessments in 3 sections of the Dinin and have found that water quality in the river known as Dinin (South) has returned to good quality and no further actions are being recommended here.

In the main channel of the Dinin, downstream of Dysart bridge, water quality is significantly impacted due to excess phosphorus in particular.

The Douglas River in Muckalee was also assessed as part of the Dinin evaluations and stands out as Kilkenny’s only high status river.

Unfortunately, it is currently not reaching its high status potential and there with concerns about the risk of sediment loss to the river from forestry that is planted close to the river channel.

ASSAP have started engagements with farmers in this catchment highlighting the actions that they can implement to protect water quality on their lands.

LAWPRO’s catchment scientists have determined that water quality in the Duiske river upstream of Graignamanagh has deteriorated due to high levels of the nutrient nitrogen.

“We are working to identify the areas within the catchment that are contributing this nitrogen and we know that excess nitrogen applied as a fertiliser is lost to groundwater from agricultural areas in particular,” LAWPRO state.

Nitrates enter our waterways from subsurface run-off, where they can then be discharged to rivers and ultimately to our marine waters.

Areas of the south and southeast of the country are particularly susceptible to nitrogen losses from agriculture due to local soil profiles.

The increasing trend in nitrate concentrations in our rivers and groundwater, showcase that urgent action is now needed to reduce the negative impact to our local water catchment areas. Further research is ongoing.