Allow Project – Duhallow Farming for Blue Dot Catchments

Main funding sourceRural development 2014-2020 for Operational Groups (in the sense of Art 56 of Reg.1305/2013)
Project typeOperational group
Starting date2019
End date2023

This project aims to restore the high ecological status of the River Allow, a high-status objective waterbody in an agricultural catchment in Duhallow, Co Cork.

The objectives are to:

Restore &; protect the high status river through integrated catchment management.

Deliver a results-based payment scheme for farmers.

Implement actions designed to improve water quality, restore habitats, enhance biodiversity &; reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Develop an on-farm citizen science approach with farmers.

Increase community knowledge &; appreciation.

Inform national policy &; best practice.

Up to 100 farmers will participate in enhancing and restoring freshwater and terrestrial habitats on their farms. Farm specific management plans will be developed in close association with the farmer; including measures designed to improve water quality, enhance biodiversity and reduce GHGs. Measures will be based on the source-pathway-receptor model, reducing contaminants at source, intercepting them before reaching the river and restoring impacted habitats. A results-based payment system will reward participating farmers for improving & maintaining the nature value of their farms. Knowledge exchange programmes will empower farmers & increase environmental awareness.

The River Allow is part of the Blackwater SAC, designated for the conservation of freshwater habitats &; species. It is a high status objective river as defined by the Water Framework Directive. Agriculture is a significant pressure in the catchment &; the river is considered to be at risk of not achieving its high status objective. The protection of high status rivers is a national priority &; the River Basin Management Plan for Ireland proposes the “Blue Dot” programme as a measure to provide a structure towards their conservation &; management. The Allow Project will pilot the Blue Dot programme, developing an integrated catchment management system appropriate for agricultural catchments &; inform policy.

Additional information: 

The project proposes to take a farmer-focused approach following a rural development model, which provides the framework for both practical support on the ground coupled with farmer-led knowledge exchange. Key to this will be the involvement of farmers who have already participated in agri-environment schemes, conservation programmes (e.g. EU LIFE) &; research programmes relevant to high status waters. Building on learned experience &; knowledge exchange the project will develop an integrated catchment management model for the implementation of the Blue Dot programme in agricultural regions

Expected benefits include:

•          Integrated catchment approach involving all actors in the protection of Blue Dot catchments with farmers centre stage.

•          A results-based farmer-led strategy &; suite of suitable measures developed for the restoration of high status rivers in agricultural catchments.

•          Economic security in sustainable agriculture through a results based payment scheme.

•          Improvement in water quality within the targeted objective high status sites.

•          Enhanced biodiversity value of farmland habitats and promotion of high nature value farming.

•          Improved conservation status of the Blackwater SAC.

•          Better energy &; nutrient management with reduction of greenhouse gas &; nutrient emissions.

•          Practical guidance &; knowledge enhancement for policy makers, agencies and stakeholders.

•          Greater community appreciation and knowledge of the importance of high status rivers.

•          Farmers trained as citizen scientists &; empowered to make sustainable choices in agricultural practices.

•          Certification for agricultural contractors who uphold the Blue Dot standard for farming in high status catchments.

Additional comments: 

The measures of the Allow Project are intended to protect watercourses from farm-related pollution with the overarching aim being to protect and, where necessary, restore the high status of the Allow catchment. Following the source-pathway-receptor continuum, a variety of measures will be implemented to reduce sediment and nutrients at source, intercept mobile contaminants and restore river habitats. In order to monitor the effectiveness of these individual measures and the overall impact of the project on catchment status, a combination of biological and physiochemical monitoring approaches combined with a citizen science initiative will be implemented. A number of strategically selected monitoring locations will be established within the catchment in order to gather the necessary baseline data. Annual monitoring at the selected locations will take place in order to assess any longitudinal changes in catchment status over the course of the project. Parameters measured will include water quality, aquatic invertebrates, aquatic plants, birds, fish and terrestrial biodiversity such as pollinators. This will be complimented by a citizen science initiative where participating farmers will be trained in monitoring the effectiveness of their actions.

Contact person: Maura Walsh

Address: IRD Duhallow, James O’Keeffe Institute, Newmarket, Co. Cork.


Phone: +353 (029) 60633

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