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Book Launch: Wells and Wellbeing The Hydrogeology of Irish Holy Wells by Bruce Misstear

Book Launch: Wells and Wellbeing The Hydrogeology of Irish Holy Wells by Bruce Misstear


Wells and Wellbeing – a new book connecting the science and tradition of Holy Wells in Ireland.

Holy wells have been important in Ireland for many centuries (and probably millennia), and continue to be popular sites of local pilgrimage and folklore, but they are also an expression of the groundwater flowing beneath the landscape. A new full-colour book published by Geological Survey Ireland explains the hydrogeology behind the holy wells throughout the country and marries the tradition with the science in a public-friendly way.
Hydrogeologist Bruce Misstear has written Wells and Wellbeing – The Hydrogeology of Irish Holy Wells to promote a greater understanding of the sources of water that supply Ireland's many holy wells, including the chemical composition of the different well waters.
Speaking ahead of the book launch, Minister Eamon Ryan TD, Minister with responsibility for Geological Survey Ireland, said “I welcome the publication of this beautiful book that explains the current scientific understanding around sites that have been special places, place of homage, to people for generations. As we face the challenges of our changing climate and environment, there is value in reconnecting with the land, the water sources, and our respect for the Earth.” 
The book is in four parts: Part one sets the scene with an introduction to sacred wells and springs across the globe, before introducing the reader in Part two to holy wells in Ireland, and their geological and hydrogeological settings. Part three investigates the chemical makeup of the holy well waters and considers the potential links between water chemistry and human health, including the many reputed cures associated with holy wells. Part four considers Irish holy wells in their religious, cultural and community context, and their preservation for future generations.
The book will appeal to the general reader interested in the science behind holy wells, and it is hoped that this will stimulate the reader's interest in groundwater topics more generally, including the nature and importance of groundwater to society. The main text is accompanied by 21 text boxes, many of which provide explanations of technical topics such as groundwater flow or how to sample a well.
Scientists and engineers will also be interested in the book for the data it contains on Irish hydrogeology, and the analyses and inferences drawn. They may also take away a greater appreciation of the number of holy wells across Ireland, their patrons, and traditions.
The book is illustrated with more than 200 photographs, plus many maps and other images.
The book, published by Geological Survey Ireland, retails for €20.00 and is available through the Geological Survey Ireland online bookshop (
Editor’s notes
Dr Bruce Misstear is a Fellow Emeritus of Trinity College Dublin, where he has taught hydrogeology and environmental engineering for more than 25 years. He has worked on groundwater projects in Africa, Middle East and Asia, as well as in Ireland and the UK, and is the author or co-author of 200 publications including the international textbook Water Wells and Boreholes. Between 2016 and 2020, Bruce served as Secretary General of the International Association of Hydrogeologists.
Geological Survey Ireland is a division of the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications. Staff from the Groundwater Programme and the Cartographic Unit have worked with Bruce Misstear to produce this book.
The book is published by Geological Survey Ireland (2023). The book can be purchased via the Geological Survey Ireland Shop at and can also be purchased over phone by credit and debit card. Telephone enquiries can be made between 9.30am - 4pm Monday to Friday on +353 (01) 678 2896. The book may also become available via other outlets in the new year.
The book’s ISBN is 189970270-9.

Book Launch Event

The book launch for this publication took place on Friday, 15 December 2023 at Geological Survey Ireland's Booterstown Office, Dublin in parallel with the Cunningham Awards 2023 (which you can read about HERE). Dr Bruce Misstear discussed the book, its development, and its importance as well as thanking all involved.