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Limnos Blog

Occasional musings on environmental matters and the work in hand.

The Year Moves On...

November 11, 2014

Probably one of the driest summers in a long time - the summer of 2014. River levels were as low as I can remember in any year since 1980, when I first began systematic biological monitoring of Irish rivers, at the time with An Foras Forbartha. It makes life a lot easier of course when you don't have to pull on the rain gear at every sample site and sampling is much easier. I could even wade easily across the mighty Shannon River, back in September. The angling community were not too happy though - not ideal conditions for trout and salmon angling.

Battle Bridge on the upper River Shannon.
Battle Bridge on the upper River Shannon.

I think 1995 was a close comprison in terms of warm weather and low flows. Back then I was impressed by the manner in which sensitive invertebrates such as the mayfly Ecdyonurus could survive in the almost stagnant conditions that prevailed in many of the tributaries of the River Moy. Farm pollution dried up but the impact of wastewater treatment plants discharging into rivers, that were close to 'dry weather' flows, was much aggravated. Swings and roundabouts to a certain extent - diffuse pollution reduced and point sources having greater than normal impact in low flow conditions.

Whether climate change will bring more such summers or more of the wet and flooded rivers that we have also experienced in some recent years remains to be seen.

In any case it was nice to be back kicking up those Shannon tributaries that I hadn't examined in almost a decade.

Now back at the desk having attended the TRAP workshop in Cork on 6th November. This comprised a very interesting series of talks from River Trust speakers from England and Northern Ireland; plus the IRD Duhallow group working on the Allow River in North Cork where the freshwater pearl mussel is a target for protection. Some great ideas on getting catchment inhabitants more involved with their local rivers.

Then next day a long walk along the beautiful beach at Youghal - some 5 km of beautiful clean sand with some stones and gravel in spots and remarkably clear of algae. Very little rubbish of any sort in fact. Striking lines of old wooden stakes down the beach at intervals marching into the sea - presumably old erosion controls. And then the new 'eco boardwalk' at the top of the beach: it was hardly in place when it was totally ripped away by a storm back in March, leaving only the supports and a few spots where the steps protected the decking. The power of the sea.

After a day's heavy rain.
After a day's heavy rain.

Also stopping to examine the town's big concrete discharge pipes along the beach and thinking about the current Limnos project which has to do with wastewater treatment plants. A slight whiff, but a clean-looking discharge after some heavy rain the previous day and it didn't seem to worry the dog splashing around in it.

On the beach!
On the beach!

Bathing water-wise there are occasional fails on the coliform counts here as a result of the discharge presumably but a new treatment plant should sort that - as long as the improved treatment doesn't encourage algal growth on the beach!

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