World Water Day is on 22nd March every year. It is an annual United Nations Observance, started in 1993, that celebrates water and raises awareness of the 2 billion people currently living without access to safe water. A core focus of World Water Day is to inspire action towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030.
Groundwater is invisible, but its impact is visible everywhere. Out of sight, under our feet, groundwater is a hidden treasure that enriches our lives, it is the source of springs, wells and many rivers. As climate change impacts become more acute, groundwater resources will become more and more critical, are we doing enough to plan for potential eventualities?
In Ireland, the Geological Survey of Ireland monitor and manage Ireland’s groundwater resources. Ireland’s aquifer systems have a large storage capacity and together with the humid climate and relatively low population density, our groundwater resources are not regarded as under quantitative stress despite historical drought events. Yet, in more recent years higher demand and exceptionally dry spells have tested the resilience of groundwater resources.
Groundwaters are recharged by rainfall or by transfer from another waterbody. Therefore, changes in rainfall patterns will impact on groundwater recharge. Most of Ireland is underlain by poorly productive aquifers that have limited storage capacity and many of these are overlain by glacial till that restricts groundwater infiltration to the water table. Recent research completed by the GSI shows that the impacts of variability in rainfall patterns caused by climate change will have unequal impact on groundwater recharge across the country. Different modelling methods were used to simulate groundwater levels under contrasting climate conditions thereby constituting a stress-test for the systems.
This recharge characterisation of the aquifers found that the recharge capacity of the aquifer is state (current capacity) and season dependent. Together with the aquifers limited natural capacity to store water the research highlighted a potential weakness in the future resilience of groundwater resources.
The GSI research concentrated on the quantitative aspect of groundwater resources that is balancing demand and recharge. Groundwater resources can also be impacted by pollution, particularly in karst areas are susceptible to land sourced pollution such as agricultural pollution.
Ireland’s River Basin Management Plan aims to protect Ireland’s water resources from pollution, restore good water quality and build resilience in water supplies and the draft plan for 2022-2027 is out for public consultation until the end of March.
The EC encourage member states to better integrate drought risk management and climate change aspects into future RBMPs. The GSI modelling indicates the potential vulnerabilities in groundwater resources with increasing demands and the additional uncertainties of climate change particularly in the east midlands and south of the country where there is high demand and lowest rainfall.
The Water Framework Directive recommends the development of risk-based Drought Management Plans as part of the River Basin Management Planning process. The draft RBMP contains no plans to develop Drought Management Plans and as the GSI research indicates it would be prudent that this oversight is addressed in the final plan.
European Drought Observatory
Geological Survey of Ireland Research
River Basin Management Plan
Other activities for World Water Day
UN World Water Day
National Federation of Group Water Schemes
Local Authority Waters Programme
DCU Water Institute Water Cafe event at 1pm 22nd March