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Farmers urged to be mindful when spraying as Glyphosate pesticide detected in drinking water

Exceedances in pesticides have been detected in drinking water sources in Co. Waterford. Irish Water, working in partnership with the National Pesticides and Drinking Water Action Group (NPDWAG), is appealing to farmers and other users of pesticides to follow the guidelines when applying these substances to their lands.

The efforts to reduce the incidence of these detections are being coordinated by the NPDWAG. This group is chaired by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. All of the key stakeholders are represented in this group and include other Government departments and agencies; local authorities; industry representative bodies; farming organisations; water sector organisations; and amenity sector organisations.

In Co. Waterford, excedances for the pesticide Glyphosate were noted in the Villierstown supply in December.  While there is no threat to public health, it is imperative that users of pesticides are mindful of best practice when spraying their lands.

Glyphosate is used mainly for the control of broad-based leaves and is found in a number of weed killer formulations used by gardeners and growers.

Pat Duggan Irish Water’s Regional Drinking Water Compliance Specialist said: “Irish Water is continuing its extensive investment programme to improve water and wastewater services in Ireland. Providing safe, clean drinking water for all is our first priority.”

Adding to this, Dr Aidan Moody, Chair of NPDWAG commented: “The continued engagement of all stakeholders, working in partnership, is needed to tackle this issue. Users of pesticides should make sure that they are aware of the best practice measures that should be followed to protect water quality.”

A single drop of pesticide can breach the drinking water limit in a small stream for up to 30 kilometres. This clearly highlights the potential risk facing many of Ireland’s drinking water sources.

Drinking water monitoring results for Ireland show that a number of pesticides commonly used such as Bentazone,  MCPP, Clopyralid and Fluroxypyr, are being detected more frequently.

Irish Water, working in partnership with the National Pesticides and Drinking Water Action Group, would like to remind farmers and professional users of pesticides to follow best practice in the application of pesticides on land, particularly near lakes and rivers used as drinking water sources.

The basic steps in reducing pesticide risks are:

  •         Choose the right pesticide product
  •         Read and follow the product label
  •         Determine the right amount to purchase and use
  •         Don’t spray if rain or strong wind is forecast in the next 48 hours
  •         Make sure you are aware of the location of all nearby water courses
  •        Comply with any buffer zone specified on the product label to protect the aquatic environment. Mark out the specified buffer zone from the edge of the river or lake or other water course
  •         Never fill a sprayer directly from a water course or carry out mixing, loading or other handling operations beside a water course
  •         Avoid spills, stay well back from open drains and rinse empty containers 3 times into the sprayer.
  •         Store and dispose of pesticides and their containers properly.

A recently produced video on the correct use of MCPA can be viewed on Irish Water’s YouTube channel at

Information leaflets on pesticide use are also available to download from the Teagasc website.



Notes to editors

The term ‘pesticides’ includes a wide range of chemicals used for the control of unwanted pests (commonly weeds and insects). While the amount of public water schemes with elevated levels of pesticides above the allowed standard is very small in Ireland, there is increasing evidence of pesticides in water sources as a result of run-off from weed control on hard surfaces, gardening, agriculture or forestry. The presence of an individual pesticide at levels exceeding the allowed value tells us that there may have been careless or excessive use of a product in the source catchment or in the vicinity of treated water retaining infrastructure.

The highest incidences of pesticide exceedances encountered in Ireland’s drinking water is MCPA, a commonly used herbicide present in many products used to control thistle, dock and rush.

What risk does this pose and what is the response? 

Pesticides do not pose any immediate risk to health.  Ensuring that pesticides do not enter drinking water supplies requires a strong protection plan for the water source and that the general public is informed of the correct and safe use of pesticides. A national group has been formed to take action to address pesticides and devise and deliver various educational campaigns. This group has members from numerous state bodies and organisations including the EPA, Department of Agriculture, Teagasc, Coillte, Local Authorities and Irish Water.

Details of the key stakeholders that are represented on the National Pesticide and Drinking Water Action Group (NPDWAG) include:

  • The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government
  • Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM)
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Health Service Executive (HSE)
  • City and County Manager’s Association (CCMA)
  • Irish Water (IW)
  • Local Authorities Waters And Communities Office (LAWCO)
  • Teagasc
  • Irish Farmers Association (IFA)
  • Animal and Plant Health Association (APHA)
  • Irish Creamery and Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA)
  • Federation of Agrochemical Retail Merchants (FARM)
  • National Federation of Group Water Schemes
  • Golfing Union of Ireland (GUI)
  • Golf Course Superintendents Association of Ireland (GCSAI)
  • Association of Landscape Contractors of Ireland (ALCI)
  • National Federation of Group Water Schemes

In the case of individual pesticide exceedances Irish Water engages with the relevant statutory authorities with responsibility for protecting the catchment in that area (e.g. Local Authority Environment Sections, EPA catchment units) to investigate the possible cause of the contamination and take any necessary remedial actions.

Teagasc provides useful advice on various treatment options available to farmers and this can be downloaded on

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