21 October 2021
By Tom Collins
Ireland’s Water Schools of the Year have been honoured for their efforts in highlighting the value of water in all our lives at the annual Green-Schools Awards.
Hosted by An Taisce’s Green-Schools and Irish Water, this year’s virtual awards celebrated schools all over Ireland who have participated in the Green-Schools Water theme. Last year, over 125,000 students in 480 schools all over Ireland participated in the programme.
In Cork, four schools were shortlisted in the Southern Region for their efforts in promoting water conservation. But it was Scoil Mhuire College, Wellington Road, Cork city that took home top marks as one of four winners for best secondary school in the “Water School of the Year Category.”
Scoil Mhuire have a great committee structure with a representative in each class. The committee in total has 21 students, one parent, the principal, one teacher, one SNA and the caretaker. In 2020/2021, because of the restrictions and the small room in which they meet, the committee was divided in two groups: the senior cycle group and the junior cycle group.
The school carried out all essential actions and many recommended for their environmental review, such as conducting a water use survey, investigating the water pressure in taps and water fountains, conduct surveys/questionnaires to gauge awareness around water conservation and organised a beach, river and canal clean-up.
The school also carried out many interesting actions such as highlighting World Toilet Day and organised the #Water2me campaign for Water Day 22nd March 2021, banned plastic bottles from their school and promoted the use of reusable containers, carried out a water themed quiz during an action day, took part in the Green-Schools/Irish Water poster competitions, invited an Irish Water spokesperson to give a talk to students; all while promoting the water conservation message. The students and staff at Scoil Mhuire have a simple message that they stand by: “Do the Earth a favour, Be a water saver.”
The three other schools nominated from Cork include Gaelcholáiste Charraig Uí Leighin in Carrigaline, Loreto in Fermoy and Gaelscoil Chionn tSáile in Kinsale.
Eight regional winners were announced in total (four primary schools and four secondary schools) for their water conservation measures as part of their participation in the Green-Schools Water theme. The Green-Schools Water theme is supported by Irish Water.
Ardgillan College in Fingal was named the overall Secondary Water School of the Year, while Scoil Treasa Naofa in Dublin 8 were the winners in the Primary category.
The Green-Schools programme has moved much of its interaction online for the past two school years, having developed a suite of Green-Schools Stay Home resources, including 13 weeks of activities related to the Water theme. This is the eighth year of the awards and partnership with Irish Water, which has seen over 1,600 schools attend interactive Water Workshops or Walk for Water Events since 2013. During this time, hundreds of pupils have visited their local water and wastewater treatment plants where they learned about the complex processes involved in safeguarding water supplies and protecting the environment. While COVID restrictions prevented such visits over the past 18 months, many opted to view the Irish Water documentary, The Story of Water, to learn more about our precious water resources.
Speaking at the awards today, Geoffrey Bourke of Irish Water, said: “A key part of Irish Water’s role in safeguarding Ireland’s water supplies is helping the next generation understand the importance of conserving water. It is truly inspiring to see how the schools taking part in the Green-Schools water theme have taken this to heart and are setting an example for how we can all value our precious water resources.
“The success of the participating schools in reducing water usage and raising awareness about water issues really highlights how important it is to learn about the value of water and water conservation from a young age. That’s why this is such an important programme and one that Irish Water is proud to sponsor.”
Green-Schools Manager Cathy Baxter said: “Despite the COVID restrictions presenting challenges in how we engage with our participating schools, we have used a variety of techniques and technologies to continue to support our schools and encourage them to carry out as much Green-Schools work as possible throughout the past year. It is also wonderful to see how the students have developed innovative new ways of engaging with their fellow students and wider community to help spread the work about the value of water.
“This was the second year hosting the awards ceremony virtually and it was great to see schools from all over the country joining in the ceremony through a live link.”