Tectonics, geomorphology and water mill location in Scotland, and the potential impacts of mill dam failure

Bishop, P. and Munoz-Salinas, E. (2013) Tectonics, geomorphology and water mill location in Scotland, and the potential impacts of mill dam failure. Applied Geography, 42, pp. 195-205. (doi: 10.1016/j.apgeog.2013.04.010)

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Publisher's URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.apgeog.2013.04.010


In this paper we assess the ways in which the topography of glaciated northern Britain has affected the siting and operations of water mills, and compare those factors and mill locations for mills in unglaciated southern Britain. We then explore the impacts of these findings on the potential downstream impacts of mill dam failure.<p></p> We used a GIS to plot the locations of all 1712 localities in Britain's Ordnance Survey Gazetteer that include “mill”, “milton” (‘milltown’) and “miln” in their name. We then examined the geomorphology of mill locations in two study areas, one in northeast Scotland (glaciated; 421 localities) and one in southern England (unglaciated; 438 localities), assessing (i) mill location within the drainage net, and (ii) the steepness of an adjacent stream within a radius of 500 m of the mill locality. The large majority of mills are located within the first 10 km of the drainage net in both study areas, presumably on relatively stable bedrock channels. The data for most of the mills in both study areas indicate that catchment areas of less than 200 km2 are sufficient to supply the water necessary for operation of a mill, but the higher rainfalls and runoff in Scotland (almost twice the values in the England study area) mean that mill dams in S England must have been higher and of higher capacity than those in NE Scotland. That finding is consistent with the results related to channel steepness, which show that mills in Scotland are associated with steeper channels than is the case in England. The generally greater channel steepness in Scotland (and the greater downstream extent of those steeper channels, as also confirmed by the data) reflect both the many glacially steepened bedrock channel reaches in Scotland and the steepening of Scotland's coastal bedrock channels as a result of glacio-isostatic rebound.<p></p> The technical requirements of water mill operation favour situations where water can be delivered to the top of, or at least part-way up, the mill wheel. Scotland's steeper rivers and its higher rainfalls mean that Scotland's mills require smaller mill dams, if they are needed at all. It would therefore be expected that catastrophic or managed failure of mill dam walls in northern Britain would release lower volumes of trapped sediment to the downstream fluvial system. These lower volumes would in turn result in lower geomorphological impacts downstream of the dam, both in terms of changing channel patterns and burial of the bed. Such dam failure is a key current issue in geomorphology and one case study of a small failed mill dam in western Scotland confirms the minimal downstream impacts of that failure.<p></p>

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Munoz-Salinas, Dr Esperanza and Bishop, Professor Paul
Authors: Bishop, P., and Munoz-Salinas, E.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences > Geography
Journal Name:Applied Geography
ISSN (Online):1873-7730
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2014 The Authors
First Published:First published in Applied Geography 42:195-205
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
390921Using the glacioisostatic uplift of N Britain to assess the controls on knickpoint recession in bedrock river channelsPaul BishopNatural Environment Research Council (NERC)NE/C510416/1SCHOOL OF GEOGRAPHICAL & EARTH SCIENCES