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National Hydrology Conference

National Hydrology Conference

Date: 15 Nov 2022

Climate Change and Adaptation addressed.

Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Patrick O’Donovan, opened the 23rd annual National Hydrology Conference in Athlone. The event was organised by the joint Irish National Committees of the UNESCO International Hydrological Programme and the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage. It is Ireland’s leading conference devoted to Hydrology, providing a unique forum for attendees to share policy developments, research results, and practical solutions to engineering hydrology issues.

This year’s conference theme – ‘Climate Change and Adaptation’ – aligns closely with the aims of COP27, which continues in Sharm El Sheikh this week, in addressing issues relating to building resilience and adapting to the inevitable impacts of climate change. The conference provides a platform for showcasing the science being used to quantify the expected effects of climate change in Ireland. This evidence base is necessary for a clear and targeted approach to climate adaptation over the coming years. The conference also deals with a range of important cross-cutting themes, including environmental hydrology, remote sensing, the future of water quality, flood risk management and climate monitoring.

Addressing the conference delegates, Minister O’Donovan gave an overview of the lead role of the Office of Public Works in the area of Flood Risk Management and future planned work in the associated fields of coastal change and climate adaptation.

Minister O’Donovan said " This conference plays a vital role in providing a forum for presenting hydrological research and as a focal point for those wishing to advance their knowledge of both Irish and international hydrology. As an island nation, it is vital that we fully understand the range of behaviours of Irish catchments and their sometimes complicated hydrology. The OPW’s expertise in hydrology will be needed for the successful delivery of state-of-the-art flood relief schemes, climate change adaptation, flood estimation techniques, flood forecasting, river restoration, and natural flood retention measures. Our organisation is committed to working closely with our partners in the Environmental Protection Agency, Met √Čireann, Geological Survey Ireland, Inland Fisheries Ireland and the National Parks and Wildlife Service amongst others to deliver key projects that address flood risk in Ireland and protect people, homes, businesses and communities.”

Examples of the OPW’s work to address flood risk in Ireland include the following:
  • The Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Programme was the largest study ever undertaken of Ireland’s risk from significant flood events. Its output, the 29 Flood Risk Management Plans, gave the government the evidence to progress some 150 flood relief schemes which are being funded as part of the government's National Development Plan up to 2030 with an investment of €1.3 billion. This level of funding reflects how motivated the government is to protect people, homes, businesses and communities from flooding risk
  • Since 2009, in excess of €57 million in funding under the OPW’s Minor Flood Mitigation Works & Coastal Protection Scheme is protecting 7,600 properties across 873 projects. The scheme is a valuable source of funding for local authorities to address local flooding issues
  • The OPW is chairing the Interdepartmental group on National Coastal Change Management Strategy with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. This Group is to bring forward options and recommendations for consideration by the government by the end of this year
  • Under the first stage of the development of a new National Flood Forecasting and Warning Service, the pre-operational version of the national scale flood forecast system was completed at the end of 2021. Testing, identification of data gaps and improvement of this system took place during 2022 and will continue to be carried out over the coming years
  • OPW prepared a Climate Change Sectoral Adaptation Plan for Flood Risk Management for the period 2019 – 2024 which was approved by Government in October 2019. The Sectoral Adaptation Plan sets out a long-term goal for adaptation in flood risk management to promote sustainable communities and to support our environment through the effective management of the potential impacts of climate change on flooding and flood risk. All new flood relief schemes are designed to take account of climate change and the adaptation of existing schemes is being planned
  • Good progress is already being made on implementing some of the actions set out in the Adaptation Plan. For example:
    • Maps of future flood extents under climate change scenarios have been published through our web-portal, floodinfo.ie
    • The OPW has provided funding to the Eastern and Midlands Climate Action Regional Office for research to further improve our understanding of the potential impacts of changing rainfall patterns on different types of catchment in different regions and the final report is due by the end of this year
    • Assessments have begun into the adaptability of flood relief schemes currently under design and those already completed
    • The design brief for future schemes includes a requirement to consider and plan for adaptation needs