How fortunate we are in the west to have so much water | Connaught Telegraph

2022-08-20 00:21:23 By : Mr. Terry T

HOW fortunate we are, here in the west. In talking to a friend who lives in the south east of England, I was surprised to learn that livestock farmers are already cutting into stores of winter hay and silage, there being no grass in the fields for their stock.

Fields are parched and brown. The few showers that come do little good, for the ground is so warm the water simply evaporates before it can be absorbed. Even trees are beginning to lose their leaves. The colourful foliage normally seen in October is already present across vast swathes of woodland.

Rivers and streams have been reduced to trickles. According to the World Wildlife Fund, as many as a quarter of rivers and half of England's famed chalk streams are in danger of drying out altogether this year.

It isn't just periods of dry weather that are responsible for this, of course. A rapidly growing population places huge demands on underground aquifers. Bore holes are sunk and wells dug apace, with all levels of society from home owners to heavy industry clamouring for precious liquid.

Contrast that situation with what we have here. The woods and fields are still that luxuriant green we expect to find through an Irish summer. Lough Mask, the source of water for most of west and south Mayo as well as parts of Roscommon and Galway, still laps pleasantly at its own shore. Rivers run freely and in relative health. Our problem is not too little water, but more often that we have too much of it.

We shouldn't become complacent though. While it does seem unlikely we shall have to endure a prolonged period of drought anytime soon, we really don't know what awaits us in the future. As drier conditions currently appear to be spreading in a north-western direction, we have no reason to believe we are locked into a long-term trend. Perhaps we shall always have water enough for all, and that with some to spare. On the other hand, climate scientists are telling us we are facing an uncertain period of changing world weather.

Give us the rain, I say. Wouldn't we far rather enjoy our green and pleasant land than have to put up with those fierce temperatures and periods of near-drought people must endure just across the Irish Sea?

As others suffer from inadequate water supplies, they also learn they need to look after what they have rather better.

Low levels in rivers have a knock-on effect, in that slower flows contain less dissolved oxygen. Salmon and trout are the first fish species to succumb, although others quickly follow.

Pollutants entering the water are less diluted, meaning the effects of these become greatly accentuated. Invertebrate life goes into decline, leaving far less food for birds and animals that normally live along waterways. Dipper and kingfisher disappear, along with other landmark species.

If we think this is greatly alarmist, just take a look at the dried out river courses in parts of the UK. It wasn't long ago such a thing was unheard of, yet these are the very things taking place.

Tens of thousands of cubic meters of water are pumped from Lough Mask on a daily basis. We think the lake is huge, with an inexhaustible supply.

Work is underway to increase the amount of water being extracted. More and more straws are being inserted into a glass that still looks pretty much full.

There is a limit, though, as to what even such a huge body of water can sustainably provide, and as yet this hasn't been properly put to the test. Time will tell.