Environment Fund – Water Quality Improvement Strand

An additional strand of the Environment Fund has been launched with a closing date for applications by noon of the 10 March 2023.

Please note - The Water Quality Improvement Strand 2023/24 is now closed for applications.

This is a grant competition funding projects to deliver water quality improvements subject to budget approval, help connect people with the water environment and bring about behaviour change. The key areas for funding under the Water Quality Improvement strand are:

Connecting people with the aquatic environment to achieve behavioural change

  • Volunteering, including the establishment of new local groups or greater public involvement within existing groups, to improve the water environment e.g. adopt a “local water body”, host a river day.
  • Community engagement and citizen science for aquatic/ marine conservation, protection and improvement e.g. Anglers’ Riverfly Monitoring Initiative, Invasive non-native species identification and training, outfall safari training, litter picking (can include purchase of specialist equipment).
  • Engaging and empowering the community to support to increase understanding of the water environment or develop citizen science skills, such as species identification or water quality monitoring, water conservation and development of digital/social media and webinars that tie in with behavioural change and raise awareness of key issues.
  • Local Pollution Prevention campaigns e.g. drainage misconnections, workshops, signage, leaflets.


Conservation, Protection and Restoration of our Aquatic environments:

  • Creation, protection or restoration of aquatic, coastal or marine habitat.
  • Creation of blue and associated green spaces.
  • Recovery of threatened aquatic and marine species.
  • Improving and maintaining fish passage.
  • Tackling invasive non-native species e.g. removal and biosecurity planning.
  • Preventing, removing or cleaning up pollution e.g. litter picking, wetlands, buffer zones, awareness raising.
  • Water quality surveying and monitoring e.g. Anglers’ Riverfly Monitoring Initiative, baseline surveys and post project surveys.
  • The development of restoration plans.
  • Action that aids the improvement of water quality e.g. tackling diffuse pollution.


Nature-based solutions, particularly for climate change mitigation and adaptation

These projects should seek to work sustainably with the water environment to address socio-environmental issues, particularly in reference to climate change and flood risk management.

For example, projects may include, but are not limited to, action contributing to:

  • Peatland and other wetland restoration to reduce pollution and flooding.
  • Natural flood management e.g. silt trapping including woody debris to drains, swales, attenuation ponds, measures to prevent soil erosion and nutrient run off.
  • Creating, enhancing or connecting blue and green infrastructure.
  • River or waterways bank stabilization and in-stream improvements.
  • Riparian management / tree planting, planting of native species/hedgerows, de-tunneling, etc.

How to apply for the Environment Fund – Water Quality Improvement Strand 2023/24

The webinar covering the launch of the 2023/24 Environment fund can be viewed at this link:

The following documents are available to download on this website:

Please read the Guidance notes and other documents thoroughly to decide if the Water Quality Improvement strand of the Environment Fund is suitable for your project.

  1. Read the indicative conditions of offer 2023/24 (see link above) which outline many of the conditions you will need to comply with if you are awarded funding. You will need to consider the actions you will need to undertake to deliver these and any associated costs as part of your application;
  2. Consider discussing your project proposal with your NIEA Catchment Officer. Contact details can be provided by Catchment Team staff who can be contacted by email RiverBasinPlanning@daera-ni.gov.uk
  3. Complete the EF Challenge Competition Water Quality Improvement 2023/24 Application Form  referring to the Guidance Notes.
  4. Submit the application form to catchmentplanning@daera-ni.gov.uk by noon of the 10 March 2023
  5. DAERA reserves the right to make an offer of funding that is different from the details or financial amounts that are set out in the applications.

How much can we offer?

The Water Quality Improvement strand of the Environment Fund budget is limited.

For the 2023/24 Environment Fund – Water Quality Strand Funding will cover up to 85 % of total project cost. The minimum that can be awarded is £5,000 and the maximum is £30,000 (subject to budget approval).  Payment of grant will be in arrears unless there are exceptional circumstances requiring a degree of payment upfront. 

The creation of buildings is not eligible.

Applications may be refused or offered a lower level of funding if there is insufficient budget or there are concerns about value for money or risks in delivering the outputs.

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