Project Overview

In contrast to many other parts of the EU, the development of hydrological models and CMTs for Irish RBDS proves particularly challenging. Highly heterogeneous geological conditions (including strong variations in the properties of soils, subsoils and bedrock) occur across the country with geological conditions, varying substantially over short distances. As a result many RBDs may contain a range of aquifers types (Daly et al., 2006). These are often overlain by subsoils and associated soils that bear little relation to the underlying rock due to complex geological processes. As a consequence, approaches to integrated water management developed in areas of more homogeneous conditions are often difficult to apply in Irish settings without data sets that provide details of the physical and chemical properties of the geology. Similarly, many of the processes reported from elsewhere deal with different climatic conditions where associated surface processes have resulted in soil and subsoil types that differ significantly from the Irish context. These differences in climate and geological conditions suggest that much hydrological research completed elsewhere may not be directly applicable in the Irish context and thus requires verification, and/or appropriate modification. Furthermore, research techniques and methods employed in many studies completed to date have tended to be discipline-specific. Conversely, cross-disciplinary approaches are more rarely applied, despite proven benefits (Stuart et al., 1999). Such approaches are necessary to achieve the aims of this project.

Project Objectives & Targets

The proposed programme of work will integrate the results of existing studies with those to be completed in relevant scientific domains in the near future. Integration of these diverse sources of information into a multi disciplinary framework will help improve the current understanding of hydrological processes in the Irish context, how they influence contaminant transport and attenuation, and ultimately how they impact receptors. The project aims to develop a scientifically-based decision support system that may be employed by RBD management to ensure that appropriate measures may be taken to achieve good WFD status in a cost-effective manner. Achieving this aim requires the following project objectives to be addressed:

1.   Identification of significant hydrological pathways within RBDs.

2.   Quantification of flows along pathways identified in #1.

3.   Identification of critical source areas (CSAs) for pollutants reaching groundwater and relevant ecological receptors (aquatic and groundwater dependent terrestrial ecosystems).

4.   Identification of significant pathways for pollutant transport and attenuation, with particular emphasis on the attenuation of nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus species), particulate matter (pathogenic micro organisms and sediments) and priority substances.

5.   Development of a catchment management tool to underpin a technical decision support system suited to conditions