1 July 2018
By Elaine Murphy
As the warm weather continues, the demand on water supplies is outstripping the supply across the country. Irish Water is appealing to the public to conserve water as much as possible and to avoid unnecessary use of water. As flows in rivers and water levels in boreholes reduce, conserving water now will safeguard scarce water resources for the remainder of the summer and into the autumn. The weather has been dry since late February this year with Met Éireann reporting that the level of rain that as fallen is on par with 1976 when a major drought was in place.
In the Southern Region, water availability in 27 schemes is impacted by drought. Customer supply is being managed by tankering water to reservoirs, restricting supply at night and in a small number of cases providing emergency water stations. Leakage Find and Fix crews are mobilised to reduce the water being lost through leaks both on the customer side and in the public network. These measures are currently mitigating the impacts on business and household users and will have to be maintained for the foreseeable future.
In general, there has been an increase in demand of approximately 15 to 20%. Due to the rural nature of the region, many towns and villages are supplied by small streams and boreholes. The lack of rainfall is and will continue to impact on raw water availability and additional small schemes are likely to experience drought over the coming weeks.
The areas worst affected in the Southern region are Kilkenny (Bennettsbridge, Castlecomer and Innistigue) and the Central Regional supply in Carlow, in Waterford in Loskeran, Balllaneen, Portlaw, Kilrossanty, Ardmore and Kealfoun. In Limerick impacted schees are in Hospital, Oola, Knocklong, Herbertstown, Bruff, Lahall, Newcastle West, Pallasgreen, Doon, Bruff. In Kerry in Inch, Ardfert, Ballytermon and in Cork in Freemount, Ballyhooley, Kilbrin and Gortnaskethy.
Water Conservation Orders
Irish Water is using all tools available to promote water conservation and to protect our water supplies including mobilising leakage repair teams and has imposed a Water Conservation Order in the Greater Dublin Area which comes into effect tomorrow Monday, 2 July. The Water Conservation Order will be in place until the 31st of July but Irish Water will keep the situation under review and may have to extend the period of time the Order is in place. It is likely that similar orders will be brought in over the coming weeks on other schemes.
The prohibited use will apply to the use of water drawn through a hosepipe or similar for the purpose of:
- watering a garden
- cleaning a private motor-vehicle using a domestic hosepipe
- cleaning a private leisure boat using a hosepipe
- filling or maintaining a domestic swimming or paddling pool (except when using hand held containers filled directly from a tap)
- filling or maintaining a domestic pond (excluding fish ponds) using a hosepipe
- filling or maintaining an ornamental fountain (with the exception of such use for commercial purposes)
- use of water for filling or replenishing an artificial pond (excluding fish ponds), lake or similar application
The primary purpose of these orders is to mobilize maximum public support and engagement on minimizing water use during the crisis. Similar drought orders have been introduced in Northern Ireland and in British water utilities and operate by mobilizing public support for responsible behavior. Irish Water is backing up these Orders by increasing the number of Call Centre agents to take calls from the public and we will follow up such reports to encourage water conservation measures and to offer technical support, for example advice or support on how to repair leaks. We believe that this approach will deliver the best outcomes in terms of saving water.
Drought orders provide certain powers of enforcement which will be used to address continuing and excessive wastage of water during the crisis. We expect the vast majority of people will adhere to the Water Conservation Order and that there will be very few prosecutions while the order is in force. Our domestic and non-domestic meters are identifying private side leaks and we are working with householders to address these leaks in properties and offering assistance to get them repaired. Regulatory powers are available to address chronic leaks where owners do not engage with us and do not respond to multiple notifications.
Irish Water’s primary concern is for longer term supplies in late summer and autumn. Based on modelling previous dry years, and allowing for how dry the ground now is, we need to maximise conservation of raw water at this time to secure our needs over the coming months. Therefore, these urgent conservation messages are of critical importance to communities in Dublin and the other marginal supply areas across the country.
Commenting on the ongoing situation, Irish Water’s Corporate Affairs Manager, Kate Gannon said
“We have a serious challenge to ensure clean safe drinking water for everyone, given the current state of our network and the impact that sustained warm weather has had on water supplies both nationally and in the Greater Dublin Area. We thank everyone who has already taken action and we need a collective effort from the public to conserve water, and that behaviors change into the future as the threat to supplies remain beyond the current hot spell. We urge customers to conserve water and to work with us by following our tips such as taking short showers instead of baths, turning taps off when brushing teeth and not using hosepipes in gardens and limiting use of water in paddling pools. It will take months for water levels to restore in raw water sources such as rivers, lakes and ground water supplies and for levels in our treated drinking water reservoirs to restore. We are asking the public to continue to conserve water in the months ahead and to follow our advice for longer term water conservation’’
When the current hot weather ends we will still need customers to be mindful of their water usage for the months ahead to protect the available water for the remainder of the summer and into the autumn. Wider water restrictions may become unavoidable if the demand does not drop towards normal levels. Every effort someone makes in their home or business impacts their neighbour and community and we are asking everyone to collectively take responsibility for their water usage to benefit their whole community. Irish Water have lots of tips for conserving water in the home, garden and business on www.water.ie.”
”Local authority crews supported by contractor resources are working to maximise water availability, though managing pressures to the minimum which avoids loss of supply and repair leaks on the public network. This work will continue and intensify in the months ahead and we are using all available tools to monitor our water supplies to conserve water.”