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Holistic Hydrogeology of the South Irish Midlands

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A Hydrogeologist is a scientist who studies groundwater in the rocks and soils beneath our feet. Robbie Meehan tells us about the International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH) Ireland annual field trip in 2017. They visited Offaly and Laois during Storm Brian, which ensured there was plenty of water for them to study…

The Irish Midlands have long been known as a sacred landscape with long-famed sites such as Clonmacnoise, Croghan Hill and Durrow underpinning this. The idea of the IAH field trip in October 2017 was to examine the rich hydrogeological heritage of the region, by visiting a wide variety of sites with very different hydrogeological influences.

On the outward journey from Dublin, Storm Brian was raging. Driving through Westmeath was like driving through a very long car wash. However, at Clonmacnoise, despite still-driving rain and high winds, Damien Doherty introduced the sand and gravel aquifer body that centred on Clonmacnoise, which had recently been mapped in a project by Geological Survey Ireland. After a short and wet discussion, Dr John Feehan brought all on foot from a roadside stop at Creevagh, south of Clonmacnoise and along the Shannon floodplain, to view one of the strange phenomena that are the mushroom rocks of the Midlands.

In the afternoon, Dr Ray Flynn (Queens University) took us to the first of two stops related to Clara Bog; this one in a kettle hole adjacent to an esker just outside Clara. At the second stop, Dr Paul Johnston of Trinity College, Ray and John Cody of the Bog Restoration project led a superb presentation and discussion about bog reclamation, as well as the historical studies that have taken place on Clara Bog over the last thirty years. The final stop was a wastewater treatment demonstration facility, at Molloy Environmental Systems in Tullamore. Dr Laurence Gill (TCD) introduced the principles of wastewater treatment for single houses, and John Molloy and Michael Cahill showed us the demonstration facility itself.

The Sunday morning focussed on the Cullahill Group Water Scheme Zone of Contribution (ZOC) in County Laois, with stops at the pumphouse and the spring source, discussing issues with elevated nitrates. Jimmy Walsh from Cullahill, Roisin Dowd Smith, Dr Taly Hunter Williams (GSI) and Dr Catherine Coxon (TCD) outlined the studies that have been completed on the ZOC in the last few years.

Robbie Meehan, IAH Fieldtrip Secretary

The International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH) Irish Group have an interest in the promotion and development of the science and engineering of groundwater issues. Regular activities of the Irish Group consist of an annual two-day conference, an annual weekend fieldtrip, and a series of monthly lectures/technical discussion meetings.

www.iah-ireland.org/

Irish Groundwater Newsletter: https://www.gsi.ie/en-ie/ programmes-and-projects/groundwater/activities/Pages/ Groundwater-Newsletter.aspx

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Local Authority Waters and Communities Office

The Waters and Communities Office has been established to carry out public consultation and engagement, and to coordinate the activities of all 31 local authorities in areas connected with the Water Framework Directive.

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The EPA is responsible for coordinating the monitoring, assessment and reporting on the status of our 4829 waterbodies, looking at trends and changes and determining which waterbodies are at risk and what could be causing this, and drafting environmental objectives and measures for each.

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Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government

The Department is responsible for making sure that the right policies, regulations and resources are in place to implement the Water Framework Directive, and developing a River Basin Management Plan and Programme of Measures that will be implemented after public consultation, and sign off by the Minister.