THE much-loved Gearagh nature reserve outside Macroom is experiencing it lowest water level in over four decades.
The area, which was once densely populated by ancient oak forests, was flooded in 1954 during the construction of the hydroelectric dams at Carrigadrohid and Inniscarra.
The many oak trees, some standing since the Normans came to Ireland, were felled before the area was flooded and, while the stumps survive, the result has given the area a ghostly and almost lunar appearance.
Following weeks of little or no rain, visitors to the Gearagh reserve are witnessing a dry, cracked lakebed, and in some areas the famous water lilies are simply sitting on the lake floor.
‘I have never seen the water levels so low at the Gearagh,’ Deputy Aindrias Moynhan told The Southern Star. ‘This is another example of the difficult conditions caused by the ongoing drought and only highlights the need to conserve water wherever we can. The Gearagh is an incredible resource for this area and we must make sure we can protect it for future generations.’
‘I remember the Gearagh when it was first flooded,’ Macroom local John O’Sullivan said. ‘And I have never seen the water so low. I hope we get some rain soon or we might loose this very special habitat and nature reserve. The ESB have worked hard to ensure the Gearagh is maintained, and I know as soon as these drought conditions are over, it will return to the way it was before.’
A spokesperson for ESB said that current levels, while low, were last experienced at the Gearagh during the summer of 1976. ‘The current extended dry period is impacting on water levels in the Gearagh as it is throughout the country.
‘The levels are currently below what would be normal at this time of the year due to very low inflows into catchment. There were similar low levels in August of 1976, which was also a particularly dry summer.’
Photographer John Delea visited the site this week for The Southern Star and his stark drone video of the area can be seen below.