Coping with Flooding

FACT: The recent storms have flooded many areas in Ireland, devastating homes, shops, businesses and huge swathes of farmland that will be submerged until March.

flooding 2

Flooding has happened in the past and is likely to occur more frequently  in the coming years

Storm Frank is the sixth storm to hit Ireland this month, it is expected to hit the West of Ireland on Tuesday with heavy rain and winds. Picture: Hany Marzouk

Picture: Hany Marzouk

Climate Change is happening right now, with big alterations to weather patterns.  The long term result may be dramatic, but today’s adults need to be concerned mainly about the short-medium time-frame.

flood in village

Most old towns and villages grew up alongside rivers or even canals because they were  the easiest way to transport goods and people before railways and motor cars. They risk being flooded by their swollen rivers and streams, particularly when heavy rains saturate the ground which can no longer absorb any more water.

flood in pub
Remember flooding is also caused by rises in the sea-level which, together with heavy rains, can also erode cliffs. So people living in coastal areas risk a double-whammy.

sea shore

Rises in the sea-level?
A 1-4°C increase in the global temperature will melt the Greenland ice sheet completely, leading to a sea-level rise up to 7m. Not overnight – we’re talking very long-term here (over a millenium or more). But certainly gradually – it’s already started. And it’s not the only ice-sheet in the world.

What can I do now my house has flooded?

flooded house
• Wait for the waters to recede.
• Be aware of the health risks linked to contaminated dirty waters (due to soil, sewage, dead animals etc) .

Comment: As you clean up and renovate your house, look into ways of waterproofing it, if feasible. Consider the following strategies to help prevent flood damage in the future.If your insurance won’t cover the extra costs, EU Emergency Funding should.
• Raise switches, boilers, wall sockets, meters, circuit breakers and wiring at least a foot above the expected flood level in your area (see below) .
• Raise your furnace, water heater and any other anchored indoor equipment above your property’s flood level.

• A flooded sewer system can cause sewage to back up into your home. So install an interior or exterior backflow valve on all pipes entering the house

tiled floor

• Replace timber floors with concrete. Lay tiles rather than carpet or laminate flooring. Add comfort with rugs and mats that are easily rolled up and carried upstairs
• Choose new kitchen or bathroom units in plastic, steel or similar alternatives

steel kitchen
• Opt for lime plaster or cement render rather than gypsum plaster, because they are more water resistant

plastic skirting boards
• Select plastic skirting boards, doors and door surrounds or alternatively varnish these items thoroughly to limit water damage
• Outdoor fuel tanks, air-conditioning units and generators should be anchored and raised above your flood level.
• “Dry proof” your house by applying coatings and other sealing materials to your walls to keep out floods.


Lobby your TD and senator, councillors, your political party activists, friends and neighbours to ensure the Irish Government applies for aid from the EU Emergency Fund. We contribute to it. It was set up for exactly this type of emergency, so we have a right to this aid. The UK Government will probably not apply, as it’s in negotiations which will determine its position on the Brexit Referendum (Stay or leave the EU) later this year or next. As far as I know, there is no reason why the Irish government should not apply.

The European Commission has said that if the cost of the direct damage of the storm is more than €803m, it can help, provided the Government applies within 12 weeks of the storm hitting the country.

What I can do to prevent my house from flooding in the future?

Get a geologist to assess the flooding risk of your property (or of any property that you want to buy).
Always try to find a flooding risk map of your area if there is one (especially a map reporting historical flooding events).
Here you can find the main catchment areas in Ireland (it is a guide of areas that are potentially at risk of flooding)

If flooding has occurred, it will most likely happen again. Be guided by the maps
Remember:Don’t buy/rent a house on a flood plain


Floodplains are not regions that just happen to be adjacent to rivers — they exist because  of river processes. Floodplains don’t simply experience periodic flooding. They are the result of periodic flooding.

What about National Flood Defences?

climate change enda

Once such a natural disaster like flooding occurs we always ask if we
can predict another event. And if so, can we do something to prevent it?
Apart from earthquakes ( we can estimate where, but not when they will occur) most natural events can be predicted (weather warnings etc.).


Sandbags and pumps are the cheapest, safest emergency response. Human chains shifting sand-bags may look like something from pre-industrial times but they appear to be all we’ve got!! Building dams, levées (banks)  and canals to channel water to where we want it to go are ambitious projects. The national approach to flood defences depends on the area at risk, what type of floods are expected and the costs.


Which costs more?
Preventing a disaster? Fixing up everything each time it happens? Abandoning areas with a low-density population?

The right answer and government strategy depend on the costs of repairs and the frequency of the event. It’s always a cost/benefit analysis.Which does not always take the social costs of family distress etc into account.

The same cost/benefit analysis comes into play for  power lines going down in storms.

We can’t stop the storms, but we can update our power supply by putting the lines underground. Huge job but necessary. Big improvement in the countryside  . . . . but  . . . .

PS Special thanks to geologist Dr Luca Mancinelli TCD for info and opinions

One thought on “Coping with Flooding

  1. Great advice. An urgent requirement, at a state-level, is the planned forestation of upland river basins and of flood-plains. This green form of water management and flood defences is a long-term contribution to solving such issues which also has wider benefits. And its much cheaper too. Deforestation and changed field patterns in recent decades, partly due to EU agri-sector policies, have contributed significantly to the flooding we have witnessed over the lasr few weeks.

    Liked by 1 person

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