Three things the water-deprived people of Louth agree upon
Normally we would barely nod in the street, but the need for water brought us together
People filling up containers at a “temporary water station” in Ballsgrove, Drogheda. Photograph: Patrick Logue
Everyone in the queue for water in Drogheda agreed on three things.
Firstly, if this was happening “up in Dublin”, a full-scale crisis would already have been declared and the Army might have been called in to help.
Secondly, Ireland was worse in some ways than any third-world country you chose to name.
And thirdly it is absolutely staggering how much fresh running water it takes to live your daily life.
We were about 20 citizens thrown together in adversity last Saturday evening, our water supplies having been cut off. In normal times we would have barely nodded at each other on the street, but here we all were queuing to have our containers filled with water by Louth County Council so we could wash our teeth, keep the thirst at bay, do the dishes and hopefully flush the toilet once or twice.
The crowd was gathered at one of a number of “temporary water stations” set up by local authorities when it became clear the burst water main at Staleen reservoir near Newgrange would not be fixed last Friday night.
These “stations” consist of a pipe sticking out of the footpath, presumably for use by firefighters to plug in their hoses when the need arises. A council worker in a high-vis vest assisted people with the flow of water to suit different container sizes.
As an 8pm deadline approached, more and more people joined the queue with their collection of large drums, small bottles, buckets, and even watering cans, to have them filled and refilled.
Some people came out of the nearby houses in the streets, overlooked by one of the region’s largest hospitals, Our Lady of Lourdes. Others pulled up in cars like we did. We had travelled for about 10 minutes from Termonfeckin, where there was no facility for residents to get water refilled. We would be back here, and to another water station on the other side of town, six or seven times over the weekend and into Monday.
We would also find ourselves travelling to various relatives and friends who were lucky enough to still have water.
We never thought for a minute it would come to this. When the tank in the attic first drained on Saturday morning we went straight to Aldi for fresh water supplies. By the time we got there all the five-litre bottles were already sold out but we happily settled for three six-packs of two-litre bottles instead, fairly sure we would have more than enough in 36 litres. We thought to ourselves: We’ll be grand; how long, in reality, can a water supply be switched off in an area the size of Drogheda and its environs?
The official word is it will be Thursday by the time things get back to normal, and even then we will have to wait for pressure to make its way out to the coast and then for the tank in the attic to refill. By then we will be almost a full seven days without water.
How have we coped? Pretty well. We were dealing with what is a very definitely a first-world problem, but a problem nonetheless.
One thing is sure: we will probably never look at a toilet flushing seven litres of valuable water down the drain in the same way again.