Water quality has been identified as an issue in the Mulkear catchment. Water is typically referred to as polluted when it is impaired by anthropogenic contaminants and either does not support a human use, like serving as drinking water, and/or undergoes a marked shift in its ability to support its constituent biotic communities, such as fish.
Sources of surface water pollution are generally grouped into two categories based on their origin (point source or non-point source pollution). Point source pollution refers to contaminants that enter a waterway through a discrete conveyance, such as a pipe or ditch. Examples of sources in this category include discharges from a sewage treatment plant, a factory, or a city storm drain. Non-point source pollution refers to diffuse contamination that does not originate from a single discrete source. Nutrient runoff from agricultural fields or industrial forests are examples of non-point source pollution.
Agriculture is the principal land use activity in the Mulkear catchment. Estimates suggest that 50% of the Mulkear catchment consists of either improved or semi-improved dry grassland, mainly located in the lowlands area. This land is used primarily for beef and dairy production. There have been problems with agricultural runoff in the past from this activity. Many of these problems are caused when cattle have direct access to the channel, which cause consequent pollution and tramping impacts on the aquatic habitat.
Currently Ireland is not dealing with the issue of water supply to farms in a sustainable manner. There are no demonstration sites available to show farmers the practicalities of water harvesting. In addition, water acquisition and delivery solutions need to be promoted as an alternative to allowing cattle direct access to rivers.
Twelve demonstration farms will be established within the catchment to show farmers the practicalities of water harvesting and other water acquisition solutions. These solutions will range from water harvesting using farm sheds to collect rain water, to more novel solar powered water pumps where the former and other techniques are not feasible. The possibility of using hydraulic ram water pumps will also be investigated. These sites in turn will become demonstration sites for the project to encourage other farmers to set up similar systems. Aquatic invertebrates are good biological monitors of water quality. The Mulkear LIFE team will monitor aquatic inverts to assess any improvement to water quality from these alternative water sources.