After the floods = before the floods

Last winter saw some of the most dramatic floods in Ireland’s history. The rainy season is about to start. Will we see half the country under water again? We don’t know what the weather will be like. We do know, however, that everything else is much the same as last year.

It takes time to build or reinforce flood defenses. Monies have been allocated to the OPW to do that, and we’ll see the results in years to come. Other matters should take less time, but our dear leaders have been otherwise occupied.

An Oireachtas committee concluded that too many agencies were part-responsible for flood management. They still are. The same committee argue that a single minister should be in charge in case of an emergency. He is still not. Last winter, it was not clear who should call in the army and when. It still is not.

One of last year’s problems was that there was no early warning system. There is still no national one at either floodmaps or flooding, and the county councils do not seem to have put anything in place either. Hydrometric data are still incomplete and out of date. Last year, ESB filled up its reservoirs just before the rainy season. Did they do so again? The latest data I could find on the river Lee are from 2008, and do not cover the reservoirs.

The ESB is still in charge of these reservoirs. In last year’s panic over potential dam failure, the dam operators did not warn the people in Cork. Do the authorities now have automatic access to data on water levels and releases? If they do, they have kept silent about it.

So, Ireland is still as vulnerable to flooding as it was a year ago. Let’s hope it won’t rain as much.