Groundwater is a major natural resource in Ireland providing between 20-25% of the drinking water supplies. In some counties this percentage can be much higher and in rural areas groundwater is the only source of drink water due to lack of access to public or group water schemes. This groundwater is accessed by wells and springs with over 100,000 of them in use. With so many people relying on groundwater it is vital that this natural resource is protected.
Groundwater pollution occurs when harmful substances (pollutants) enter the groundwater. These pollutants are practically limitless but can range from motor oil to chemicals from agriculture to untreated waste. Unlike surface water pollution, groundwater pollution is harder to detect and control which may cause the problem to persist for long periods of time.
By studying aquifers and the flow of water in them, known as hydrogeology, we can make better decisions in where to locate industrial sites. It is also important to study the underlying structures of an area to understand that these pollutants can travel long distances underground. In karst regions the groundwater can travel many kilometres in underground channels in the limestone before surfacing.
For more on groundwater resources in Ireland please go to our Groundwater programme pages.