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Recharge and groundwater vulnerability

This is project 2002-W-MS/16 of the current Environmental Research Technological Development and Innovation Programme, and is being undertaken for the Environmental Protection Agency by the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, Trinity College Dublin. The project is funded under the National Development Plan 2000-2006. The project duration is 36 months, with an expected completion date in early 2006. The overall aim of the research project is to develop a quantified link between groundwater vulnerability - as mapped using Geological Survey of Ireland procedures - and groundwater recharge. Specific objectives are to:

  • Review and evaluate current methods for the estimation of groundwater recharge at sub-catchment level.
  • Review current data availability and identify suitable sub-catchments which will form the basis of the experimental studies.
  • Examine relationships between information from detailed instrumented sites with sub-catchment scale maps of groundwater vulnerability and aquifer potential.
  • Develop a preliminary GIS based assessment tool for the estimation of groundwater recharge (recharge acceptance).

The various approaches for estimating groundwater recharge can be grouped as follows: inflow estimation, aquifer response analysis, outflow estimation and catchment water balance. For this project, where the maximum period available for field studies will be approximately 2 years, it is envisaged that the collection of new field data will focus on inflow methods such as environmental tracers, since useful results can be achieved by these methods in relatively short timeframes. On the other hand, the application of aquifer response and outflow approaches usually requires many years of data and therefore these proposed analyses will rely mainly on existing data from instrumented catchments.

The research will be carried out in areas where good, up to date, groundwater vulnerability maps are available. It will be desirable to investigate the link between recharge and vulnerability (and vulnerability indicators) for a range of vulnerability categories – specifically the high, moderate and low categories. It is not envisaged that the extreme vulnerability category will be particularly relevant, since this category will encompass a large range of aquifer types including karst areas where recharge is indirect and varies hugely from location to location.

Project coordinator: Associate Prof. Bruce Misstear