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Matthews joins Greystones Tidy Towns in citizens science water quality sampling

“High quality clean water is essential for our health and our natural environment. Our drinking water in Wicklow is drawn from rivers, lakes and groundwater sources and there are many negative impacts which can affect the quality of that water”, said Green Party Deputy Steven Matthews after taking part in a community water testing event in Greystones. ‘It is essential that we are all aware of how clean our water is and the Local Authorities Water Programme (LAWPRO)and Greystones Tidy Towns have teamed up to carry out a series of citizens science water sampling and testing in the Three Trout Stream.

“I joined the group on a wet Sunday morning where we were given a highly informative overview of water quality, what the impacts are and how we can carry out sample testing in our local streams. The LAWPRO team are led by the highly experienced Justin Ivory and Donal O’Keefe and the Greystones Tidy Towns with Delgany Tidy Towns have established a community led water sampling programme.

“The water was tested using two methods, biological testing and chemical testing. Biological testing is carried out by extracting samples of aquatic insects (macro-invertebrates) through ‘kick sampling’. This test method is carried out by placing a fine net in the riverbed and agitating the substrata to collect the tiny aquatic insects that inhabit the riverbed in their thousands. Some insects like Mayfly can only survive in clean, highly oxygenated water whilst others like Hoglouse are much more adapted to low quality water. By identification of the insects collected, it is possible to give the water a quality rating.

‘The second test is a chemical test to establish the level of Nitrates and Phosphates in the water. A simple test kit is added to a small river water sample and after a few minutes the chemical reaction colours the water and the extent of coloration indicates the level of N or P in the water.

“Our verdict on the day of the water quality in the Three Trout Stream is that it was moderate quality. Phosphates were low, Nitrates were present but not excessively and the aquatic insect count showed a mix of pollutant tolerant and less tolerant macro invertebrates.

“The citizen science programme is not only a good opportunity for bringing community together, to connect with their river and to understand aquatic ecology and how it is impacted by water quality’ said Matthews ‘but it is also important to raise awareness of how important water quality is for our health. With much discussion recently surrounding EPA reports and the Nitrates Derogation, often the link to human health is missed.

“I would like to see the LAWPRO work expanded and facilitated to engage with more community groups across Wicklow and to get out sampling the water in their locality. I studied Planning and Environmental Management at DIT and dedicated much of my studies to water quality testing, gaining work experience for my dissertation carrying out water testing with the Wicklow County Council laboratory team. That was over twenty years ago and in that that time we have seen ongoing deterioration in our water quality from various sources including agriculture, forestry and sewage treatment plants. Despite regular reports of this deterioration caried out by the excellent EPA, water quality is very rarely raised with me on the doorsteps. I would like to expand citizens science sampling, with useful information and educational opportunity for local groups to test their local streams and increasing awareness of the importance of clean watercourse for human health and high-quality environment. We have an abundance of water in this country, and it is in all of our interests to protect and improve it. If any groups want to get involved and join the programme, please get in touch and I would be happy to assist you to get started,” concluded Deputy Matthews.



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