What do you expect … when you built on a flood plain?

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.

Flooding at N18 Kiltartan – Nov 2009

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.melvilles

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.

Connolly’s house (Courtesy of : Sean Brady Aerial Photography)

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





20 thoughts on “What do you expect … when you built on a flood plain?”

  1. What a very informative and we’ll written piece. Well said. You are so right to continue to fight for South Galway and all those who have been impacted so dreadfully by a lack of planning and maintenance. I wish you all the best .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well said Dave. It’s time for the people of South Galway to stand together and no longer accept this!, when I hear things like ‘cost benefit analysis’ it really grates on me. Just because our community is smaller does not mean it’s acceptable to overlook us. If this happened in our capital city I have no doubt it would get sorted fairly promptly! We need all water channels cleared- culvert/swallow holes and the like, we need assurances that the new motorway (which currently has approx .5 km under water) will not impact on water flow i.e block it, and we need a channel to the sea at Kinvarra long term. If these simple measures were taken early on there would be no great build up/blockages in the flow.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well done for putting this out there. I think a lot of people feel sympathy but don’t realise what exactly is going on. I really hope action is finally taken to do something about this.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Well done for putting this out there. I think a lot of people feel sympathy but don’t really know what is going on. I really hope some action is finally taken to do something about this. My heart goes out to the Melville’s and Connolly’s and all the other families affected by this.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for a clear explanation of how blatant negligence has caused this disaster. It’s election year – watch the empty promises roll in …


  6. Thank you for this we live on N18 at Labane and waited many days for a decision from the Council and politicians to put a wall of sandbags along the road. This only happened after a desperate plea for help. If there isn’t some proper solution to redirect the water we could still be flooded. Thanks to all those volunteers who have spent days and nights manning the pumps and water levels. We want a long term solution otherwise we won’t be able to live here. We have a constant volume of traffic redirected to the front of our house (old Galway road) and again no consideration given to the people in the village who have to endure this day and night. After all the recent work and money (3million?) on the N18 the road had to be closed almost immediately as no consideration was given to any flooding solution. What a nightmare!! Thinking of all those who have suffered so much stress and have had to move out of their homes.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. In relation to your comments on the nowadays fast flow of water in the region I have just seen a guardian article on a town in England where they have undertaken works to build natural barriers to slow the flow. It could be something to take on board in Galway and other parts of the country. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/uk-flooding-how-a-yorkshire-flood-blackspot-worked-with-nature-to-stay-dry-a6794286.html

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Extremely well said. Let’s see if anything will be done on this occasion!
    I live in Kilcolgan and we experienced flooding never seen before. Is it as a result of displacement due to the new motorway in addition to other factors. Cognisance will be taken of locals views for the next couple of weeks but what will happen thereafter is what really matters!


  9. Well said Dave. We are out of our house and never had any problems until they built the new dual carriageway behind us. The fields there used to take any excess rain water, but now because of the new road it comes in to us. My husband’s home house next door has been there for over 100 years and is now under 2 feet of water. They never had this problem before because THEY DIDN’T BUILD ON A FLOOD PLAIN!!!


  10. Coole Lake is a natural flood catchment area, but nobody has ever seen it flooded like this year. The Motorway works are the single biggest changed factor in the South East Galway area… I have no doubt that that alone was the catastrophic tipping point for the flooding. There were lots of other factors, but anyone with a modicum of common sense will deduce that the motorway works have changed something…not sure what, exactly. Could be compacted earth, crushed underground channels, or soil run-off into the culvrets or streams, but no question, something vital has been changed by these works. And that change, combined with the astonishing amount of rainfall in December filled the underground channels faster than usual and we now see the result.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I was born in Rinerush and went to Church and School in Kiltartan and feel very sad to read of the plight of the McLaughlin family and our lovely little Church. Something is very badly wrong.It MUST be sorted.

    Liked by 1 person

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