Dearth of water halts Liffey Descent


The annual 17-mile Liffey Descent race, which attracts more than 1,000 canoeists and kayakers to Ireland every September, has been postponed – due to a lack of water.

Paddlers from all over the world converge on Straffan, Co Kildare, each year to enjoy the thrills and spills of the event, which has been running since 1960.

Announcing the postponement, the Irish Canoe Union, which governs the sport here, said the race would not now take place on Saturday, September 10th as planned. It will instead take place on October 8th – perhaps providing welcome extra training time for the serious paddlers who were gearing up for the daunting task of running the swollen river from Kildare to Islandbridge in Dublin.

On the website, the organisers noted that reservoir levels were at a 35-year low.

The main attraction of the Liffey Descent over the years has been that it is a ‘big water’ event,” a statement said.

It noted the flood for the massive event is provided by the ESB through the release of water from its upstream reservoirs.

“The ESB has however recently advised the Irish Canoe Union that reservoir levels are currently at a 35-year low and that having regard to long range weather forecasts and its own water demand forecasts it will not be in a position to release water to facilitate this year’s event in September.

“It has indicated that it will be in a better placed in October to facilitate a release sufficient for the ICU to run a satisfactory event.”

Organisers said this had left them with a “difficult decision” - to run the event on 10th September as originally planned but without a flood, or to postpone it until early October when there will be “a greater possibility of the traditional Liffey Descent flood”.

“Having considered the matter in great detail and having taken into consideration as many factors as possible including, but not limited to, matters such as potential clashes with other events, mean temperatures in early October and the likely impact of future Liffey Descents in the event of running a ‘dry’ race, the event organising committee has arrived at the conclusion that, on balance, the most appropriate course of action is to postpone this year’s Liffey Descent until Saturday the 8th of October.”

The Irish Canoe Union said it regretted it had been necessary to take this course of action, and was “conscious that this may not be popular in all quarters”.

“It would however remind canoeists that the release of water is a matter completely outside the control of the Irish Canoe Union and is one solely for the ESB.

“It is considered that the running of the race in the absence of the excitement generated by a flood would detract from its value as the premier Irish canoeing event.”

The body said the move was considered to be in the best interest of the broader Irish canoeing community, and that the decision had been taken in this context.

Paddlers from a number of canoeing clubs started the event in 1960 and it now attracts canoeists and kayakers from as far afield as South Africa every year.

It has always been renowned for “guaranteed” good paddling conditions, largely due to the ESB's release of an extra 30 tonnes of water from the Poulaphouca reservoir to bring the river up to flood levels for the race.