En el siguiente ENLACE puede descargarse el informe completo de la visita de estudio.

Day 1

Former National Co-ordinator (now National Policy Advisor) with the NFGWS, Seán Clerkin, and NFGWS Quality Assurance Officer, Jean Rosney, joined Brian for the first stage of the tour, meeting the overseas delegates at Dublin airport.

Tom Brennan. Sheepgrange GWS


The first stop was at Sheepgrange GWS, one of several group water schemes near Drogheda, County Louth, that are amongst the oldest community-owned drinking water supplies in Ireland, having been established in the early 1960s.

Under the Rural Water Programme, Sheepgrange recently constructed a new treatment facility and reservoir (€100,000), as part of a wider network upgrade costing €500,000. This scheme supplies 56 domestic and 2 farms from a borehole supply. The wells are in a tillage zone and nitrates levels were formerly high, but these have dropped significantly in recent years. In the past, a direct pumping system was used, but the provision of a reservoir tank means that all connections are now fed by gravity flow.

Due to the scheme’s success in reducing unaccounted for water (through universal metering), the reservoir tank has 3 days supply, so levels are controlled to ensure that a fresh chlorinated supply is maintained for distribution.

Disinfectant is manufactured on site (the only scheme visited that employs this process). Tom Brennan, who manages the treatment plant on the scheme’s behalf, explained the process.

Peadar McGuinness, Senior Engineer with the local statutory authority (Louth County Council) gave an account of the Rural Water Programme in the county. Formerly, most schemes were failing to meet the parameters for drinking water, with particular problems in relation to E.coli and Coliform bacteria, as well as Nitrates on some. Today, schemes across the county are fully compliant. He expressed the view that the chlorination system in place in Sheepgrange is particularly appropriate for small rural water supplies, as the relatively low demand means that supplies made on site are fresh, as opposed to purchased Sodium Hypochlorite which will ‘go off’.

After leaving Sheepgrange, the delegation proceeded to neighbouring Tullyallen GWS, a 170-house supply that has managed to reduce nitrate levels in raw water from 85 mg/litre to less than 10 mg/litre. The cordon sanitaire approach adopted towards borehole protection (with the co-operation of the local landowner) was explained by GWS chairperson, Gerard O’Brien.

Mayoral welcome to Monaghan

Mayoral welcome to Monaghan

After a brief engagement with the Mayor of County Monaghan who welcomed the delegation to the county with the highest proportion of households on community-owned GWS supplies, the tour continued to Aughnashalvey GWS, where they were welcomed by schemes administrator, Geraldine Connolly, chairperson Hugh O’Reilly and several committee members. This scheme has approximately 700 domestic connections and is in an area of intensive poultry production, with high numbers of beef and dairy cattle also, as well as mushroom houses. The scheme is supplied from a lake source (Kilcorran Lough) which is within 200 metres of the international frontier with Northern Ireland. As with most lakes in County Monaghan, Kilcorran is eutrophic, with occasional algal blooms. Having completed an assessment of the source, the scheme has initiated a long-term protection strategy, including agreement by farmers to keep grazing animals out of the water. As a quid pro quo, the GWS has supplied each farmer with electric fencing, drinkers for cattle and a water allowance to compensate for the loss of free lake water.

As with most of the other group water schemes in the county, Aughnashalvey is part of a Design Build Operate (DBO) contract with a drinking water service provider (in this case Veolia Water). Through this 20-year contract, the GWS is obliged to maintain raw water quality and quantity within agreed parameters, while the DBO operator must provide drinking water that is in full compliance with the Drinking Water Regulations. There are financial penalties where either party to the contract fails to meet its obligations.

Following a tour of the DBO treatment plant (which includes full DAF treatment as well as disinfection), the scheme provided a demonstration of line scouring, stressing the importance of regular flushing of mains and measurement of turbidity and residual chlorine levels as controls. The tour also included a visit to the high reservoir site used by the GWS, including the on-line monitoring systems that are in place there, plus secondary chlorination. Monitoring systems, measuring flow along the distribution network, were also explained by scheme caretaker, Gary McQuaid.

Day 1 concluded with a round table discussion in the community-owned Sliabh Beagh Hotel, hosted by Tydavnet GWS. Seán Clerkin provided an account of the development and progress to date of the Rural Water Programme, while Carlos explained the Life Rural Supplies project. Given the late hour, further contributions to the round-table discussion were deferred. Members of the Tydavnet and Aughnashalvey GWS committees joined the delegation for dinner.

Day 2

04NFGWS_Bunn chairperson-001

Community meeting at Bunn GWS

The tour left for Donegal at 8.15am, stopping in Derry briefly before proceeding to Bunn GWS, Ireland’s most northerly community-owned drinking water supply and an outstanding example of community endeavour.

The delegation was hosted in the local community centre, with many members of the scheme in attendance, including all of the committee.

Established in 1975 to supply 25 domestic connections, Bunn now has 88 domestic connections on a 3km distribution network. The supply comes primarily from a spring, with two boreholes as back-up. All are very well protected with the co-operation of local landowners.

Plant Bunn GWS

Plant Bunn GWS

Through universal metering of connections and a simple but effective on-line system, there is zero wastage of water and daily demand is maintained at 26.5m3 across the scheme.

After passing through a slow sand filter, the water is sterilised using a UV treatment system and chlorine. Only 1 litre of 13% chlorine is required per week, using a flow proportional dosing system. A pure chlorine is used, rather than a Sodium Hypochlorite mix. Because it is less bulky, this product suits the delivery and storage requirements of remote communities.

The next stop was Meenabool GWS in the Dún Lúiche area of Gaoth Dobhair, a Gaelic-speaking area of West Donegal. Raw water is abstracted from a spring on Errigal mountain. It passes through slow sand filtration before chlorination. There are 38 domestic connections currently on the supply, but there are plans to extend the supply throughout the district to serve approximately 100 homes as well as businesses. The delegates were led on a tour of the plant and filter beds by Séamus Ó Gallachóir (Chairperson), Eugene Mooney (Caretaker) and by Adrian O’Donnell, Senior Engineer, Donegal County Donegal.

Meenabool reservoir

Meenabool reservoir

One of the issues raised during this site visit was the limitations of online monitoring systems in remote areas and, in particular, the issue of recalibration of instrumentation and the need for locals to be trained in this, as the needless call-out of professional companies is unsustainable.

The long-term implications of climate change on the carbon content of lakes in the West of Ireland creates an issue for all drinking water suppliers in that region. The final visit on Day 2 was Townawully GWS, a 100-house scheme supplied from a mountain lake source impacted by high TOC, particularly in autumn. THMs have been an ongoing issue for this supply and scheme organiser, Éamonn McGinty, explained the function of an array of filtration systems designed to remove colour and minimise TOC levels. This system has been built up incrementally, using the limited resources at the disposal of the scheme. However, as THM levels were still exceeding the max, a further filtration system was added recently with support from Donegal County Council under the Rural Water Programme.

There has been insufficient monitoring since the installation of this system to determine if it has been successful. Having said that, the local community is extremely satisfied with the clarity of the water since this system was introduced.

In addition to filtration, this small scheme has installed Ultra Violet treatment and chlorine disinfection.

Despite limited resources, a caretaker is employed to check the plant on a daily basis, implement QA procedures and perform backwashing on one of the array of filters (that is not capable of automatic backwashing).

Day 3

The plan was to visit three small DBO schemes in south east Sligo, with the main focus being Corrick (Ballinafad), a 95-house scheme. Representatives of Corrick met the delegation, as did representatives of Keash GWS and Culfadda GWS (the first scheme in Ireland to install universal metering).

Ballinafad Corick

Ballinafad Corick

Also present was Sligo County Council Rural Water liaison Officer, Kathleen McTiernan and representatives of the local DBO service provider, Coffey Water.

It was explained that uneven raw water quality, including spikes in weather events, had prompted the development of a borehole close to the former lake source. Springs in a karstified area are also problematic and these are due to be phased out of production in the coming weeks.

Jim Ganley

Jim Ganley

After a visit to the Corrick water treatment works, the delegates met Jim Ganley, a (now retired) senior official from the Department of the Environment and the person credited, along with Seán Clerkin, of developing the Rural Water Programme.

In the afternoon, the delegation visited two spring source schemes in County Roscommon, a karstified landscape that has been the subject of serious water quality issues on both public and GWS supplies. The limitations of early efforts to remedy problems in the county’s GWS sector were explained at Pollacat Springs GWS. GWS caretaker/manager Anthony Lee explained that although this 400-house scheme was upgraded in 2003, insufficient raw water analysis in advance of the upgrade meant that the upgrade proved insufficient to deal with raw water variation. A further treatment process has been approved and is due to be implemented in the coming months.

The implications of deficient preparatory work in terms of raw water analysis were again stressed at Mid Roscommon GWS, a 750-house supply. Because of karstified bedrock, there can be rapid and serious contamination of local drinking water sources. The delegation visited one such source, Ogulla spring, which has been closed since mid summer following contamination thought to have come from silage effluent. Luckily the scheme had a back-up well that it could rely on and the importance of having a back-up option (whether of raw or treated water) was emphasised.

Roscommon presentations

Roscommon presentations

Noel Carroll, manager of the scheme, and Patricia Bohan of Roscommon County Council explained the steps taken in the aftermath of the contamination incident to identify the source of the problem, while the delegation also learned that ZOC delineation is currently being carried out by the Geological Survey of Ireland and independent hydrogeologists on all GWS drinking water sources in the county, as a first step in implementing informed source protection plans.

A presentation on the evolution and costs of the Rural Water Programme in Roscommon was provided by NFGWS development officer, Joe Gallagher. Representatives of other schemes in the county also attended this event.

The formal work of the study trip was concluded that evening with a further round-table presentation by participants on water related issues in their area of competence.


Brian MacDonald. Research & Evaluation Officer, NFGWS

It shone a positive media spotlight on the achievements of these voluntary run entities and it gave a real sense of pride and accomplishment to the organisers of schemes and to the communities they serve. This point was emphasised by John Heslin, a member of the Board of the NFGWS, and by two other Board members – Paddy Ward and Hugh O’Reilly – who met the delegation in Monaghan.

In addition, the study trip increased understanding in relation to common challenges on water issues that impact on rural communities across the EU and it underlined the potential for further collaboration and exchange of ideas between regulators and communities in the member states.

Certainly, the energy, interest and friendliness displayed by our friends from the Life Rural Supplies Project in Galicia has been commented on by all of those they met. That we were joined on the trip by friends from other parts of Galicia and from Scotland and the North of Ireland only helped to make the experience more informative for everyone involved, as we had a wide diversity of experience in various water related areas.

Brian MacDonald. 31 October 2014

Tour participants

1. Adrián Marquez (Secretary of Abegondo)
2. Carlos Ameijenda Mosquera (Project manager – Municipality of Abegondo)
3. Bibiana Santiso Naveira (Translator)
4. Roberto Arias Sánchez (Assistant Director- Authority river basin of Galicia Costa)
5. Raquel Piñeiro Rebolo (Technical – Authority river basin of Galicia Cost)
6. Elvira Iñiguez Pichel (Head of Section – Galician Ministry of Health)
7. Ana María Pazo Vázquez (Technical – Galician Ministry of Health)
8. Juan Fernando Castro Insua (Technical – Galician Ministry of Rural Areas)
9. Rafael Carrera Díaz (COXAPO)
10. Alberto Veiras Mejuto (Veiras Ingeniería, S.L.)
11. Berni Corr. [Drinking Water Inspectorate, DOENI]
12. Gail Walker [Citizens Advice Scotland, Consumer Regulator for Water]
13. Lynne McMinn [Drinking Water Regulator for Scotland team]
14. Brian MacDonald [Research & Evaluation Officer, NFGWS]

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