No easy solutions to flooding in the west
The floods that hit many farms in the West last winter made compelling viewing on the TV news at that time. There is nothing however to compare with seeing something at first hand and when in Kinvara recently, a friend took me on a tour of some of the worst affected areas around Ardrahan in Co Galway.
This was in early April and it was astonishing to see how much water still remained.
Looking at the dark lines that reached over the windowsills on some buildings and the muddy areas still covering entire fields, I could clearly see the extent of the damage and the farmland that had been drowned during the height of the rainfall.
The turloughs were still almost full and it was difficult to imagine them ever draining, as of course they will later in the year when livestock can again graze on the enriched grassland.
But for now the aftermath of the devastation was all too clear and while turloughs have always filled over the winter months, the recent floodwaters reached heights never before encountered.
Turloughs are a type of disappearing lake and are a feature almost unique to Ireland. Principally associated with the limestone areas that occur in Roscommon, Galway, Mayo and Clare, they are essentially grassy hollows, often extending over many acres which, during wet weather, fill with water through subterranean passages in the rock, and empty by the same means.
The duration and frequency of the flooding varies from turlough to turlough and all are dependent on underground drainage. Most flood in the autumn, usually sometime in October and then dry up between April and July.
However, some turloughs in the Burren can flood at any time of year in a matter of a few hours after heavy rainfall and may then empty again a few days later. They usually fill and empty at particular places on the lake floor and sometimes a hole or passage is visible but more often a hollow with stones in the bottom is all that can be seen.