Farm Ireland

Tuesday 20 March 2018

An argument against draining rivers - 'Demanding ever more drainage is not the solution'

Flooding in Galway
Flooding in Galway
Joe Barry

Joe Barry

Here in the east of Ireland, we have been enjoying an unusually dry winter with relatively high temperatures.

This is the well-predicted result of climate change and whether you live in the dry east or the wet west, all the while the topic of water won't go away.

Leaving aside the thorny issue of whether water should be supplied for free or not, we still hear farmers and homeowners campaigning for the river Shannon to be dredged and others suggesting water be channelled from the Shannon system to Dublin to make up an existing deficit.

Apart from the enormous cost of such projects, the consequences of carrying out these works seem to be widely misunderstood.

Our politicians will inevitably support whatever action produces the most votes and a short-term gain rather than what is in the long-term national interest.

In recent years, throughout Ireland, rivers have been drained and their banks raised while adjoining flood plains have been filled in and even built on.

These actions delivered the inevitable result of speeding up the flow of water in times of heavy rainfall rather than slowing it by using nature's system of reed beds and boulders, and allowing it filter on to natural flood plains.

Many years ago, the River Boyne was drained and on a number of sections, it was turned into little more than a lifeless canal.

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Now work is taking place to bring it back to its former state and recreate its natural functions by reintroducing boulders and reinstating natural areas that will break up the flow of water and slow its passage to the sea.

Not only does this help the river once again support wildlife and aquatic plants, but it also provides extra time for flood waters to disperse more gradually and prevent erosion of the banks.

I wrote on this topic last year following the severe flooding around Ardrahan in Galway, where the Turloughs overflowed, causing great local hardship.

There is still wide disagreement on what, if anything, should be done and it appears that, in general, our winters are becoming increasingly wetter.

Rather than taking a local view on flooding, we need to examine it from a national viewpoint. There is little doubt that the more we interfere with nature, the more problems we create. Demanding ever more drainage in individual districts is not the solution.

We cannot prevent rain falling, so perhaps we need to accept a degree of occasional flooding as inevitable and assist people in relocating from areas that repeatedly suffer. We could then restore at least some of the flood plains of the past, as is currently taking place in Holland.

The Dutch have led the world for centuries in providing solutions to flooding and we could well benefit from adopting some of the systems they use. Water has mysterious properties that are still not fully understood.

There are many claims made for the healing and health-giving qualities of 'energised' water for example, which is produced through creating a vortex.

This occurs naturally in unaltered winding river courses and was investigated in the mid-1900s by Viktor Schauberger, an Austrian forester and scientist.

His work was taken so seriously that after the war, the Russians destroyed his laboratories as they considered his discoveries too dangerous to allow them into the hands of others.

In 1957, the Americans became interested and he and his son were flown to Texas for what was to be a three-month visit to investigate his findings. His documents, models and equipment were also dispatched to the USA.

The Schaubergers were kept in isolation in the Texan desert and their research papers were then sent to an expert in atom technology for analysis, who verified their results 100pc.

Schauberger was then ordered to sign a document swearing he would not share any of his research with others. Much of what he preached makes sense and there is no doubt that, in nature, water is improved and energised by its natural spiral movement in rivers rather than just drawing it up from an underground well.

There is insufficient space here to properly describe his research but check him out on the internet or read some of the books on his life.

It just might change our national attitude of viewing water as something that can be wasted, polluted and abused. It is a precious natural resource that must be carefully tended and protected. Without it, we die.

Viktor learned to understand nature

Viktor Schauberger was born in Austria in 1885 into a family who had been foresters for many generations.

He wrote: "From my earliest childhood, it was my greatest ambition to become a forest warden like my ancestors." From this background he learnt to trust his observations and intuition and he learnt that water, when in shaded mountain areas, produced plants and vegetation at their richest, and that fields irrigated by water transported at night yielded greater harvests than neighbouring meadows and fields irrigated in daylight.

Viktor was able to explain the significance of water's properties and devise various methods for maintaining it at its optimum level of purity and vitality. He later used these observations to initiate designs for generating power and motion that worked in harmony with nature and did not produce toxic emissions.

Viktor believed nature was the foremost teacher and the task of technology is not to correct nature but to imitate it, a principle that guided him throughout his life: "First understand nature and then copy it."

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