A major €5.3M cross-border project, to improve water quality in rivers and lakes in the Erne and Derg catchment areas which provide water that serves parts of counties Fermanagh, Tyrone, Donegal, Cavan, Leitrim and Longford has launched. The “Source to Tap” project is funded by the EU’s INTERREG VA programme through the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) together with funding from the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in Northern Ireland and the Department for Housing, Planning and Local Government (DHPLG) in the Republic of Ireland. NI Water is the lead Partner working in collaboration with Irish Water/Uisce Éireann, Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, East Border Region, Ulster University and The Rivers Trust, to explore measures to improve local water quality. Hosting the launch at Waterways Ireland headquarters in Enniskillen the chairperson of NI Water Dr Len O’Hagan said: “This project will enhance at source the quality of water for 1000’s of homes, businesses, schools and hospitals across the region. “Innovation, sustainability and partnership are at its core. Partnership between Governments on both sides of the border; partnership with the SEUPB who are the principal funder of the work; partnership between various government agencies; and most significant of all, partnership between ourselves, the local community and all those for whom the natural environment is such a precious resource. “Working together it will help us to protect raw water quality at source across both jurisdictions by reducing the contaminants getting into the water in the first place and raise awareness of the importance of protecting our precious drinking water resource.” The project will put community and stakeholder engagement at the heart of the work with farmers, land managers, forestry providers and the wider community to help identify and share best practice approaches to protecting drinking water sources. The drinking water that comes out of our taps originates from our rivers and lakes. Before use, the river and lake water is treated to remove naturally occurring organic matter - particles of soil and peat, and chemicals - herbicides. Much of this organic and chemical matter arises from the way we manage the land in our river systems, including farmland, forests and peatland. The Source to Tap project will trial studies to reduce these materials getting into watercourses in the first place, helping to improve the environment as well as reducing drinking water treatment costs. Mark Horton, Director of All-Ireland for The Rivers Trust, said: "We are very excited about getting started on this project, working with a consortium of project partners, we will be working across the only international border on these islands to raise awareness about the impacts that pesticides and siltation have on drinking water quality, the local environment, economy, wildlife and people. "During the life of this project, as a result of the United Kingdom's decision to leave the European Union, the project area will become the new frontier between the UK and the EU, presenting its own challenges and opportunities. These are exciting times for cross-border collaboration on shared waters that recognise no political boundaries." Click here to find out more about the project.