Water consumption ‘drops significantly’ after Irish Water drive

New review of metered households shows fall in domestic use following efforts to fix leaks

The CSO data shows that in 2016, 37% of total water use was accounted for by just 10% of households. Photograph: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

The CSO data shows that in 2016, 37% of total water use was accounted for by just 10% of households. Photograph: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

 

Domestic water consumption has dropped significantly following efforts to fix household leaks, new data of metered households shows.

Figures released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) on Thursday offer the first detailed annual comparison of water use since the rollout of meters.

Between 2015 and 2016, average daily consumption per metered household fell by 8.4 per cent.

Nationally, homes used an average of 383 litres per day in 2015. This fell to 351 litres in 2016. In Dublin, usage rates fell from 373 litres to 351 litres on average over the same period.

The average among the highest users was 1,310 daily litres but this had dropped from 1,665 litres in 2015.

Gerry Brady, senior statistician in the Environment and Climate Division of the CSO said this significant overall decrease is most likely the product of ongoing repairs to domestic water pipes.

These have been carried out by Irish Water since 2015 and target pipes running from the external mains supply to household taps. Internal repairs, carried out by homeowners, have also helped reduce consumption.

“We know there was a well-promoted First Fix Free scheme and average consumption has decreased among the largest users,” Mr Brady said.

“The reduction has been in the big, big users. All that to me says it has to be from the leak repairs on the customer side, not in the mains.”

Targeting leaks

This “First Fix Free” programme has been targeting leaks identified by water metres looking for constant or comparatively high levels of use, an indicator that water is leaving the system before it reaches the end user.

The number of metres installed around the country rose from 497,238 in 2014 to 691,453 in 2016. Their rollout has been a source of grievance among those opposed to the related introduction of metered water charges and has since been scaled back.

Those familiar with the technology say it appears to be working when it comes to plugging holes in supply.

The CSO data shows that in 2016, 37 per cent of total water use was accounted for by just 10 per cent of households.

About 75 per cent of total consumption was accounted for by 99.1 per cent of users. However, just 0.9 per cent of households used the other 25 per cent. That latter, disproportionately high figure is most likely explained by remaining customer-side leaks in the system by the end of 2016, sources have said.

The issue of supply has been highlighted in the recent spell of prolonged dry weather, leading to significant water use restrictions around the country including hosepipe bans.

Irish Water estimates that almost half of all water produced for consumption is lost on the supply side.

Underground

However, identifying the source of leaks has proven historically difficult as most are underground. The arrival of water metering technology has allowed it to more accurately pinpoint problematic areas.

In Dublin in 2016, the lowest average daily consumption was in the areas of Chapelizod and Palmerstown. This had dropped since 2015 from an average of 290 litres to 274.

The highest level of use in the capital in 2016 was in the areas of Firhouse, Jobstown and Tallaght, at 569 litres.

Outside the capital, Co Cavan had the lowest overall average consumption level at 298 litres (down from 313 in 2015 when it was again the lowest consumer outside Dublin).

In 2016, Co Offaly had the highest average use at 398 litres. It replaced counties Kerry and Tipperary which had the highest consumption levels in 2015 at an average of 430 litres.

Between the two sets of figures, Co Offaly consumption fell from 413 litres while Kerry and Tipperary fell to 355 and 363 respectively.