2.9. Republic of Ireland

2.9.1. Characteristics of Groundwater

The total area of the Republic of Ireland is around 70,000 km². The geological structure of Ireland consists of Precambrian schists and quartzites, Devonian sandstone, Carboniferous limestone and some more smaller formations. The only widespread aquifers with inter-granular permeability are in the Quaternary deposits. Irish aquifers are relatively shallow and often small in their lateral extent. In the western parts of the country there are karst aquifers. In Ireland the total aquifer is estimated to be of the order of 18,870 km². Is has not been possible to give a detailed breakdown by type. The potential water resources of Ireland are composed as follows: Precipitation provides 80,882 mio m³/year, inflow from neighbour countries about 3 mio m³/year, the evaporation rate is minus 31,620 m³/year. The water is mostly consumed in households (431.5 mio m³/year), followed by industry (249.7 mio m³/year) and finally agriculture (129.6 mio. m³/year). A quarter of all water consumed is taken from groundwater, the other 3 quarters come from surface water. Public water supply may be a problem in rural areas where the density of population is low. This fact leads to regional provisions of piped supplies, which is expensive. The more isolated farmhouses are responsible for their own supply with boreholes and springs.

2.9.2. Structure of the Administrative Organisations Concerning Groundwater Quality

At present an Irish programme for groundwater quality monitoring is planned. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has prepared a draft national groundwater quality monitoring programme which is expected to be finalised in late 1996. The public water supply is managed by local authorities.

In older Irish legislation groundwater has already been mentioned. The legal basis is considered to be the Common Law, but more in the field of water abstraction than water protection. The Protection of Water, including groundwater was determined with the enactment of the Water Protection Act of 1977. This act was amended by the Local Government (Water Pollution) (Amendment) Act of 1990. Its pollution control provisions are fully applicable to groundwater. Part IV of the regulations makes further provisions for the control of discharges of harmful substances to groundwater. The EC (Waste) Regulations of 1979 and the EC (Toxic and Dangerous Waste) Regulations, both Irish transpositions of the European Toxic and Dangerous Waste Directive 78/319/EEC and the EC Waste Directive 75/442/EEC oblige local authorities in planning, organisation, authorisation, supervision and disposal of waste within their areas. Other regulations are the EC (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations of 1989 and Local Government (Planning and Development) Regulations of 1990 which follow the Council Directive 85/337/EEC. Additionally the EC Nitrates Directive and EC (Quality of Water Intended for Human Consumption) Regulations of 1988 have implications for water quality monitoring programmes and also for water quality control in aquifers. Finally the EPA is obliged due to the Environmental Protection Agency Act of 1992 to organise the national monitoring programmes and water resources.

2.9.3. Monitoring of Groundwater Quality

At this stage only a general description of the planned quality network can be given. More details are given in the report „Groundwater in Ireland" prepared by EPA for EurAqua.

Groundwater quality monitoring is carried out on a national basis by the EPA in collaboration with local authorities. They act in relation to the Irish and European laws. Data on groundwater quality are also collected by the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI) or universities related to specific projects. Three different types of monitoring are in operation,

  1. the representative or basic network that studies the state of groundwater, detects trends and assesses causes of any changes. Sampling sites are distributed in relation to hydrogeological conditions. 293 groundwater abstraction points are spread countrywide, parameters are measured twice a year. Responsible organisation will be the EPA in collaboration with local authorities;

  2. the user related monitoring has the purpose to monitor water resources used for drinking water supply in relation to Drinking Water Regulations. It is undertaken by local authorities that send the raw data to EPA for analyses and publication;

  3. the pollutant related monitoring helps to detect possible pollutant emissions from landfill sites, septic tank clusters, industrial sites etc. These monitoring activities are carried out by the owners and operators of possible pollution causes.

An information database will be established at EPA which will provide data for research, development and planning activities or environmental protection measurements. The main responsibility of data collection have local authorities on a county basis. The extent of the network is related to the types and number of aquifers, the location of potential pollution sources and water abstraction procedures.

2.9.4. Structure of the Administrative Organisations Concerning Groundwater Quantity

The Geological Survey of Ireland is a national body concerned with all aspects of the geology of Ireland. The Groundwater Section of the Geological Survey undertakes a groundwater level survey in five of the 26 Counties for basic data collection and scientific research purposes. This is the only national network for groundwater monitoring and it is carried out in selected locations at 22 sites in 6 groundwater regions.

2.9.5. Monitoring of Groundwater Quantity

The „Groundwater Level Monitoring Network" of the Geological Survey (GSI) of Ireland collects basic data and provides information for scientific research. The geographical extent is within the counties of Cork, Laois, Kilkenny and Roscommon. In porous aquifers there are 2 selected locations for groundwater sampling, in karst aquifers there are 17, in fractured rock aquifers there are 3 of them. The sampling sites are characterised as bored wells, dug wells and springs. They measure the groundwater level monthly (wells) and continuously (springs). No standardised procedures for the whole monitoring network have been fixed up to now. The earliest record was in 1974, the median record in 1976 and the average length of records is 16 years. The data collected are written in EXCEL-spreadsheets. Data are not free of charge. Data are accessible without restrictions at the Geological Survey of Ireland.

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