Northern Ireland (NI) Water recently scooped a major Green Apple award 2021 for restoration work carried out at Tullychurry Forest, Co. Fermanagh and Lough Bradan forest Co. Tyrone, which involved carrying out forest to bog restoration projects.

The accolade was awarded under the Green Apple Awards for Environmental Best Practice Category and work was carried out on behalf of NI Water by Lowry Building and Civil Engineering.

Cell bunding

Restoration work was undertaken within the European Union INTERREG VA funded Source to Tap project over the winter of 2020/21 at a pilot study in Tullychurry forest, owned by Forest Service (DAERA).

The work at Tullychurry trialled a technique called cell bunding. This technique created low bund walls from fresh oxidized peat, forming watertight cells to hold water, raise the water table and re-wet the area.

This forest is located next to the internationally designated Pettigoe Plateau.

After trialling the technique at Tullychurry forest, NI Water used the learning from the pilot study to implement the technique on 27 hectares of land adjacent to recently felled forest area close to the Lough Bradan impounding reservoir.

Importantly by re-wetting the area and encouraging the land back into functioning bog, it has slowed the water flow from the surrounding area into the Lough, thus improving the quality of the water abstracted from the Lough for treatment.

Green Apple award

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon said: “Congratulations to NI Water and their partners for achieving this major Green Apple Award 2021 for restoring natural habitats.

"NI Water are working hard to find innovative and natural solutions to improve raw water quality at source and the techniques used at both these sites also help to tackle the climate emergency. I am pleased to see these achievements recognised.

Dymphna Gallagher, NI Water Drinking Water regulation manager added:

“The team are delighted to win the coveted Green Apple award for our restoration work at Tullychurry and Lough Bradan forests and I would like to pay tribute to all the funders and partners involved in these key environmental projects.

“The restoration of this peatland will benefit biodiversity over time by allowing peatland plants and habitats to re-colonise.

"It also increases the area of open bog and removes cover for predators of protected species such as Golden Plover and Hen Harrier.

"As the peatland recovers and becomes wetter, it also stores more carbon, helping to mitigate against climate change.

“We look forward to applying the successes of this project to future drinking water catchment sites, helping to improve the raw water quality and reduce energy and treatment costs.

"Our partners at Ulster University have been monitoring water levels and Total Colour in samples at the Tullychurry site to assess the post-restoration work recovery, and we look forward to continuing our collaborative working with all our partners."