Clean drinking water is one of the fundamental essentials for human survival. Accordingly, the environmental sustainability of water resources, balancing ecological needs with the demands of economic growth, is a major concern of Government at every level, best expressed in the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD). This aims to ensure that all Europeans have access to clean water supplies and that the quality of existing water resources is not diminished. GSI for its part contributes an understanding of underground water systems and the effects on them of abstraction, recharge, climate change and varied environmental conditions. This actively assists the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in its task of implementing strategies to underpin the WFD. During the year GSI contributed to various River Basin District (RBD) projects under the WFD with particular emphasis on urban pressures, abstractions, mobile organic matter, onsite waste water treatment systems and the groundwater contribution to surface water flow.
Groundwater Protection Schemes are county-based planning tools which provide essential support for well-informed planning decisions and management of vital water resources. The County Cavan and County Galway schemes were completed in draft form in 2007 and that for County Galway had been signed off by Galway County Council. Source protection studies in County Louth have progressed and will be completed in 2008. In addition, three source protection reports were completed for County Cavan (Bawnboy, Ballymachugh and Annagh Lough) and one for County Galway (Gortgarrow).
The importance of clean water supply was brought sharply into focus in 2007 with the Cryptosporidium pollution of Galway water sources. Media reports noted that such a risk had been spotlighted a decade earlier in the GSI Groundwater Newsletter (No. 32).
The work of GSI on groundwater will be supported by research results emerging from at least two contracts under the Griffith Geoscience Research Awards, including the impact of climate change on groundwater resources. In order to fast-track national databases in groundwater protection, a four year NDP-funded national mapping programme for subsoil permeability, thickness and groundwater vulnerability was commenced in October.
GSI procures knowledge to support the optimal management of our environmental and water resources. In order to comply with the requirements of an EU directive (2006/21/EC) on the management of wastes from the extractive industry, a National Historic Mine Site Inventory is being prepared. This EPA-led study is being managed by GSI. A feasibility study on the management and remediation of the Avoca mine area continued throughout 2007. Additional information has been collected and analysed to ensure a holistic approach to remediation. A public meeting was held to facilitate community input. An Interreg-funded project, led by the Eastern Regional Fisheries Board, continues to examine environmental impacts in the Avoca mine area. GSI is contributing to various aspects of this project, including the tourism potential of Avoca mine heritage.