Catchment News

Slow the Flow – Natural Flood Management in Inishowen

Inishowen Rivers Trust held a public event in February 2018 to talk about Natural Flood Management in their catchment. Anja Murray spoke and chaired the event, which included speakers from Trinity College, the OPW, Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI), Ballinderry Rivers Trust and Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust.

Natural Flood Management (NFM) is a technique that uses natural processes to slow the flow of flood waters. This method of management was explored at an event organised by the Inishowen Rivers Trust in February of 2018. Following the significant flood events in Inishowen in August 2017, and subsequent smaller floods since then, the Inishowen Rivers Trust invited a range of experts to visit Inishowen to speak to the local communities about how using natural water retention measures can be used to hold back excessive flows and provide other multiple benefits.

The event was held in Carndonagh Community School on the banks of the Donagh River, which suffered damage because of the August flood, with large sections of the bank collapsing and huge quantities of gravel shifting downstream. Many businesses and members of the community were directly affected by the floods and a large crowd turned up to learn more about what happened and to hear about ways flooding may be prevented in the future.

Prior to the presentations, staff from Ballinderry Rivers Trust demonstrated to the audience how a river reacts to increased flow with their Emriver ‘Rivers on the Move’ model. This large model provides an excellent demonstration of the key principles of morphological changes in a river and simulating effects such as floodplains, sediment transportation and erosion. Alan Keys and Frank were on hand to answers questions and talk about how rivers work. There was ample time for the audience to mingle, meet the experts and share stories.

Alan from Ballinderry Rivers Trust shows off their ‘Rivers on the Move’ model.

Presentations began with ecologist and RTE presenter Anja Murray, who gave an overview of NFM. In 2017 Anja was commissioned to produce a report for the Friends of the Earth entitled ‘Natural Flood Management – Adopting ecosystems approaches to managing flood risk’ and communicated the essence of this technique to the audience, setting the scene for the panel of speakers.

The first speaker, Professor Mary Bourke from the Department of Geography in Trinity College Dublin, spoke about the floods of 2017, exploring reasons for the high level of flooding. She said

“Severe weather events will become a more regular feature of our seasons and we can prepare for the future by making our landscapes more resilient to floods. I have spent the day touring areas of Inishowen effected by the floods and speaking with local landowners. There are opportunities on Inishowen rivers to implement simple, cost effective solutions for flood alleviation through collaborations with riparian landowners and the various agencies”.

Dan Turner from the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust described some of the NFM projects his team are implementing in the Upper Wharfedale area in Yorkshire. His work has included publishing a practical guide for farmers on NFM measures such as riparian planting, swales, sediment traps, in-channel barriers, offline ponds and cross drains. His presentation featured impressive video footage of large areas of the Yorkshire Dales where the work is being carried out.


Speaking next, Conor Galvin, the Project Manager for the South-Western Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Study, clarified the role of the OPW in relation to flood
management and the responsibilities of riparian landowners. He stressed the importance of speaking with the relevant agencies (OPW, local council, IFI) before starting works on a river. Work on
one part of a river could inadvertently cause problems to another landowner’s property further upstream or downstream.

Finally, Inland Fisheries Ireland representatives Brendan Maguire and Gerry McCafferty presented some interesting photographs of projects the IFI are implementing to repair river banks and
protect fisheries habitats in the North-West region. They stressed the importance of restoring habitat after floods, and allowing the ecosystem to recover.

After the presentations, a lively discussion between the expert panel and the audience was moderated by Anja Murray.

After the event, Inishowen Rivers Trust secretary Trish Murphy said,

“Speaking to the right people is important but the absence of one agency to take overall responsibility for the rivers was clearly a frustration for the audience. Our experiences in Inishowen, like other areas across Ireland and the UK, has made it clear that there is no quick fix solution for flooding – but there are opportunities. With the right guidance, communities can act and work together to repair the damage and help avoid further flood devastation.The Trust hope to be able to help in this regard, and the support of landowners who are willing to try these techniques would be an excellent start. We can’t change what has happened but we can prepare for the future.”

Almost ten months after the flooding, there was still a palpable despair among parts of the community effected by the floods but after this event, perhaps, there is a glimmer of hope. This event has helped to build relations with both the community and the agencies by providing a positive opportunity in which to learn together. Reaction to the ‘Slow the Flow’ event and the discussions on the night was positive.

The Inishowen Rivers Trust hopes to provide up to date information on natural water retention techniques through the trust website and through various public events.. In addition, the Trust will apply for funding to pilot natural water retention projects in Inishowen and continue to encourage the community to learn more about how rivers work and how we can work with them. Inishowen Rivers Trust would like to thank everyone who came along to the event including those effected by flooding, members of angling clubs and river groups, farmers, landowners and public representatives, community representatives, academic and agency staff. We would like to thank the panel of speakers, the Waters and Communities Office, and the OPW for funding this event, and staff at Carndonagh Community College for hosting this event.

Trish Murphy, Inishowen Rivers Trust

Learn more:

You can read the Friends of the Earth report on Natural Flood Management by Anja Murray here:

Emriver Models are designed to help people of all ages and backgrounds understand complex river behaviour:

Who is involved?

Quite simply, everyone in Ireland has a role to play. This can be from something as simple as making sure you don’t pollute your local stream, or a local community working together to establish a Rivers Trust to enhance the rivers and lakes in their area, to a Government Department or Agency helping a Minister implement a new policy to help protect and enhance all our water bodies.

This website has been developed and is maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency, and is a collaboration between the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Local Authority Waters Programme.


Local Authority Waters Programme

The Local Authority Waters Programme coordinates the efforts of local authorities and other public bodies in the implementation of the River Basin Management Plan, and supports local community and stakeholder involvement in managing our natural waters, for everyone’s benefit.


Environmental Protection Agency

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Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage

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 to protect and restore our waters.