Flooding events can inflict major disruption on society and cause significant infrastructural and environmental damage. However, the adverse health impacts of flooding, particularly as they pertain to private groundwater resources used for consumption, are frequently overlooked. Whilst the literature has previously found a lack of well stewardship among private well owners under ‘normal’ conditions, our understanding of private well owners’ perceptions of and preparedness for the risks posed by flooding to their domestic well-water supply is limited. This study advances the qualitative literature on this subject. It is amongst the first qualitative studies employing focus groups to examine private well owners, and the first in an Irish context. Six focus groups were conducted in four counties in Ireland, with the themes emerging from the focus groups refined, organised, and interpreted in the context of the Health Belief Model. Most focus group participants expressed awareness of the potential severity of well contamination following flooding, but many did not consider their local area “at risk” of it, notwithstanding the occurrence of previous local flooding events. All focus group participants shared the view that owners were primarily responsible for their own wells. However, their capacity to undertake appropriate actions was reduced by reliance on visual and olfactory evidence to assess water quality, and concerns regarding the financial cost and accessibility of water testing facilities. The phenomenon of misperception was also evident among participants. In light of the increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events including flooding, these findings provide direction for future socio-hydrogeological interventions. Targeted communication strategies highlighting the risks posed by flooding, mitigation measures that promote well stewardship, and protective behaviours are required. The provision of access to free well water testing would also promote protective actions.
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