Survey: Reducing private groundwater contamination through improved guidance

Private well contamination represents a very real health risk in rural Ireland, with an improved knowledge of groundwater, and, ultimately, effective engagement with rural well owners considered central to reducing the risk of infection.

The hidden nature of groundwater and the enduring notion that it provides safe, pristine drinking water represents a “perfect storm” of sorts and may give private well owners a false sense of security¹.

Groundwater (water situated underground in rock pores and crevices) is the most extracted natural resource in the world but also one of the least understood².

Despite providing drinking water to an estimated 2.2 billion people, groundwater is often mischaracterised as a pure, reliable water supply³. In actuality, occurrences of groundwater depletion and contamination are common in many regions, thus posing an escalating global health concern.

Rural populations dependent on individual groundwater supplies (private wells) are especially vulnerable to illness due to the large number of contaminant sources.

Private wells in the Republic of Ireland currently serve approximately 750,000 of our rural residents and yet remain unregulated, with the responsibility to maintain them resting with well owners and users.

While effective communication and education is required, Irish well owners should not be talked down to; nor should they be lectured. Irish well owners should instead be in a position to avail of improved guidance about groundwater risks and well maintenance.

Current awareness levels

To this end, a survey has been developed to identify current awareness levels among Irish private well owners concerning groundwater contamination, associated illnesses and potential climate change impacts.

The information gathered will be used to develop improved, customised information about groundwater well maintenance, with the overall objective to reduce the risk of illness associated with private wells.

The survey (hosted by SurveyMonkey) comprises 38 questions and will take approximately 10-12 minutes to complete. It can be accessed via the following link: www.surveymonkey.com; or simply click here

Confidential and anonymous

Target audience: Irish rural residents who receive their drinking water from a private well or a private group water scheme.

Confidentiality: Participation in the survey is entirely voluntary and respondents may withdraw at any time they wish, without consequence.

All survey data is confidential and anonymous; no participant details will be shared with any third party or made identifiable upon publication of results.

For further information and enquiries, please contact Simon Mooney by email at: [email protected].

References:

  1. Andrade, L., O’Dwyer, J., O’Neill, E. & Hynds, P. (2018) Surface water flooding, groundwater contamination, and enteric disease in developed countries: A scoping review of connections and consequences. Environmental Pollution, 236: 540-549.
  2. Margat, J. & van der Gun, J. (2013) Groundwater around the World: A Geographic Synopsis. Leiden: CRC Press/Balkema.
  3. Murphy, H.M., Prioleau, M.D., Borchardt, M.A. & Hynds, P.D. (2017) Review: Epidemiological evidence of groundwater contribution to global enteric disease, 1948-2015. Hydrogeology Journal, 25(4): 981-1001.
  4. EPA (2017) Focus on Private Water Supplies. Wexford: Environmental Protection Agency;
  5. HPSC (2016) Annual Epidemiological Report 2016. Dublin: Health Protection Surveillance Centre;

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