I run the ‘South Galway Floods’ Facebook page and every so often I get this type of a comment from people who don’t know too much about the South Galway Area.
In response to some families being commiserated on the fact that they had to leave their house due to flooding you get the odd idiot dig…
… “What do you expect … when you built on a flood plain?”
Rather then just reply to the comment (Which I did), I decided a deeper clarification may be in order.
Rain on the western and southern slopes of the Slieve Aughty mountains will need to be transported via South Galway to the sea at Kinvara. South Galway doesn’t have the luxury of having a well defined river channel to transport the water. Instead, as it is a heavily limestones karst region, the path to the sea is fragmented via underground channels. In fact some paths to the ocean may involve 7 transitions from overground to underground.
In normal summers it can be very easy to walk across these rivers as the flows are not strong, however in Winter with heavy rains, the floods can swell and the waterflow can be substantial. Now, what would happen if you plug one of the swallow holes, or block a pre-existing culvert? It is very simple, the water would rise until it found a way to make it out to the sea? How? – The easiest path it could find. It doesn’t matter if this is through someones farm, or house or school it will take the easiest route. It may not be predicable what path it will take and it may end up joining another flow, causing even more problems and more unpredictability. Take for instance this situation of a water flowing across the main N18 road outside Gort in 2009. This was never seen before (or since) and was caused by a blocked channel. This would not be considered a flood plain.
Another reality that is need to be faced is that in the past levels had time to rise and fall but as water had a much slower progression from mountain to sea. Now due to deforestation n the Slieve Aughty, poor flood-friently forest management, new mountain roads, windmills etc, and better land drainage, water is flowing off the mountain much more quickly than before, and in greater volume which will cause the water to find different routes.
There was a new culvert in Kiltartan that was very efficient in taking water away in 2014 when water levels became very high (in Feb), but in Dec 2015 was rendered useless as it became submerged in several feet of water. Why was this? It could have been because remedial work upstream caused an increase flow as well as the fact that the new motorway (M18) construction was restricting flows downstream and it simply backed up.
The underlying word that I use to define South Galway area with respect of flooding is ‘unpredictable’. When you see houses 200-300 years old flooding for the first time – you don’t imagine conversing with the ancestors and accusing them of building in a flood plain.
When I look at Coole lake increasing in volume by something like 2.6 Billion gallons above the 2009 levels – how can we predict what that’s going to do to South Galway?
When John Melville sat down in his 160 year old home house on Christmas day for a brandy he wasn’t too worried about the floods as the house had never flooded – His ancestors didn’t build on a flood plain. Several days later it came into the house.
When the Connolly brothers were setting up their flood defenses around the home house – they were hoping it wasn’t as bad as 2009 when it came up 14 inches into the house. Caherglassaun lough eventually flowed into Ann Connolly’s house over 4ft 6 inches.
That’s why the statement ‘What do you expect …… when you built on a flood plain?’ grates on me.
What I and the people of South Galway don’t expect is that South Galway is turned into a flood plain, which through negligence on the part of our government bodies and services, is becoming just that.
The worrying trend is that now people are almost expecting flooding issues around South Galway as if this level of flooding has always been present – It hasn’t – It can be fixed – There are solutions. Lets keep pushing for them.
– David Murray