Winter is here and there will be floods. But are we ready?
Last winter was one of the wettest on record in Ireland. Heavy and prolonged rains saw rivers bursting their banks and huge areas of land flooded. When the clouds eventually cleared and the impact assessed around 500 homes and as many businesses had been seriously affected.
Now here we are again, winter is back and the rains are on their way, are we in better shape to deal with a repeat of last year’s rainfall?
In Ireland dredging continues to be the heavily relied upon defensive measure with the logic being that moving the water as quickly as possible down the river channel is central to solving the problem. But the deepening or widening of river channels is at best a temporary fix that only serves to move the problem downstream and only for a while. And speeding up water flow can have its own damaging consequences for infrastructure like bridges and walls.
Sure if your home or business was flooded last year you understandably might take that temporary reprieve but there are alternative solutions than can provide better longer term protection for all that live in areas prone to flooding.
And some progress is being made to incorporate these solutions into Ireland’s flood management plans.
In October a €6m project to reduce the flood risk for 250 homes in Athlone was given the go-ahead. Measures include long established techniques like defensive walls but there were also some novel solutions in the plan. A pilot scheme on Lough Allen in Leitrim will see water levels lowered this winter to see if this would ease a build-up of water at pressure points downstream and prevent the severe flooding seen in Carrick-on-Shannon and surrounding areas last winter.
The project also includes the measure to flood areas of Bord na Móna bog land, if necessary, to alleviate the flood risk in other populated areas. Ireland’s natural environment is designed for dealing with large volumes of water with our bogs great natural sponges born to hold water.
Flooding is costing a huge amount of damage every year and temporary fixes are not the answer. If Ireland is to be serious about reducing the impact of future flooding events, measures like these need to be more broadly explored. We’re better prepared this year but there’s still a lot more that can be done to reduce the impact of flooding.