Did global warming sink Lucan?

10th November 2000

MY colleague Darren Kinsella, our resident photographer, brought us back pictures from Lucan taken on Monday morning last.

By any standards the photos were gobsmacking. The centre of Lucan village was up to three feet deep in water. In new estates the water flowed like a river down the streets sweeping wheelie bins and everything else before it.

On the radio people who had just moved into their houses, and indeed those who had been there for years, related tales of disaster.

Water flowed in the front door of some houses and then out the back door. It is impossible not to feel gutted for these people. It will take years for the houses to dry out and every time a shower lasts longer than two hours householders will wonder if they are in for a calamity.

Now that the waters have receded people will want to know how a repetition can be repeated and why it happened at all.

Three inches of rain fell on Dublin in 14 hours. Although this is unusual it is not unprecedented.

Most of Lucan is recently built. In fact, the boast was that Lucan is the fastest growing urban centre in Ireland.

A massive patchwork of estates has been built across the area and the land zoned residential is likely to increase the population by another 10-15,000 in the next 10 years.

The suspicion will be that these housing estates were built on an ad-hoc basis with little consideration for the effect of the whole.

Householders will want to know if the proper storm drains are in place in Lucan. The system in place in the city centre has been the result of bitter experience and the lesson has been to not underestimate the weather.

Did you know, for example, that there is a three meter wide storm drain buried under the Grand Canal in the city centre? The people of Lucan will want to know whether such a provision has been made for their area.

In engineering terms it must be a straightforward job to calculate water flows in the event of prolonged rainfall.

Lucan 10 years ago was mainly agricultural land. Fields can absorb tremendous quantities of water. When replaced by housing estates all the water falling on the houses and streets are channelled in to the surface water drainage system.

All of this water heads in the same direction – downwards. At some point, if the pipes aren’t big enough, the water has to back up.

Given that Lucan is a well mapped area and that the contours are clear, why are developers given planning permission when flooding can be predicted or where the surface water drainage is clearly inadequate?

South Dublin County Council has a clear duty to answer these questions and to urgently build additional infrastructure in the Lucan area.

Of course, as people will point out, if all the water in Lucan had been properly channelled into the Liffey then the Strawberry Beds would has disappeared.

This is a phenomenon occurring all over Ireland. Places like Clonmel have suffered chronic flooding due to better drainage upstream.

As I said earlier, this rainfall is not unprecedented. But that hasn’t stopped people speculating whether global warming is to blame.

The evidence is that global warming is definitely happening. But scientists cannot predict how this will affect us. Some are predicting desertification; some predict a new ice age. Logically, it could just as easily make the weather more benign.

I’m not convinced. In any given year Clare gets almost twice as much rain as Dublin. And that’s within a very small geographical area in global terms. These fluctuations just happen.

When we bring the built environment right to its limits we must expect a greater backlash when mother earth does her worst.

So if the people of Lucan are wondering who’s to blame for their misfortune, I think they should be looking to South Dublin County Council rather than planetary climate change.

As well as that…

Every time there’s an inch of snow…

THE flooding has cost two lives and cost the country millions.

People were quick to condemn the official response.

The broad mass of people would like to see better emergency response when we’re hit by bad weather.

The broad mass of people also want their taxes reduced to the bone.

We’d like more helicopters, more fire tenders, more corpo trucks and more people to operate all this equipment – but we don’t want to pay for it.

So we might as well put up with it.

We are not prepared to pay for snowmobiles to be on stand-by all winter for whenever we get our annual 24 hours of snow. And rightly so.

What kills me is all the whingeing when it happens.

Every cloud…

FOR the past few years this city has been on the verge of a water crisis. Supply and demand are finely balanced, as city engineers are wont to say.

Well the reservoirs must be bulging now. So the next time the water goes off we can discount global warming.