Drought: Ireland’s hidden hazard

Despite posing significant risks to livelihoods and wellbeing, drought remains an overlooked hazard in Ireland. More than simply dry weather, droughts are the result of complex interactions between human activity and natural systems, and affect the economy, society and the environment via impacts on water supplies, agriculture, industry, infrastructure, ecology and outdoor recreation. Historical climate data, the summer of 2018 and spring of 2020 tells us that Ireland is prone to periods of prolonged dry weather and water shortages, the Boyne catchment being no exception. With more frequent and intense dry spells expected due to climate change and increased demand for water resources in the coming decades, across multiple sectors, Irish society will need to cope with increasing pressures on water resources. It’s therefore crucial for water-sensitive sectors to understand the potential risks of drought, and develop long-term plans and strategies for building resilience to future events. 

The Project

CROSSDRO (Cross-sectoral impact assessment of droughts in complex European basins) is a European research project co-led by Prof. Conor Murphy at the ICARUS Climate Research Centre, Maynooth University. Focused on the Boyne catchment area, we will assess the potential impacts of prolonged dry weather and water shortages on different aspects of society (e.g. water supply, agriculture, industry, leisure and the environment). The project team is interdisciplinary, bringing together expertise in historical weather series, modelling, remote sensing and qualitative social science methods to better understand drought risk in Ireland. We will work closely with government actors and water-sensitive sectors in the Boyne to learn about past drought experiences and challenges, identify current information needs, and co-produce a scientifically grounded and tailored knowledge base for long-term planning. Unlike many scientific projects that focus on complex mathematical models, CROSSDRO promotes active collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders. We believe that producing tailored knowledge that is usable requires meaningful interaction between researchers and societal actors. At the core of CROSSDRO lies the potential to connect cutting edge science with diverse understandings of drought. More broadly, we hope this project can establish a community of practice in the Boyne and be seen as an exemplar for knowledge sharing and stakeholder engagement in climate adaptation across Ireland.

Photo by IFRC on Flickr