Concern water shortages could last ‘until end of the year’
‘Scattered showers’ forecast but week-long deluge thought to be needed to restore reserves
Sunbathers enjoying the good weather in Dublin’s Phoenix Park. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times.
Met Éireann said soil moisture levels were so low that a week of sustained rainfall would be necessary before the lakes and rivers start to recover from the drought. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/ Irish Times
Water restrictions could remain in place for the rest of the year if the current pressure on supply across the State does not reduce, Irish Water has said.
The company’s senior management met on Monday to assess the ongoing drought amid expectations of “scattered showers” crossing Ireland by the end of the week. The utility firm’s managers also discussed the possibility of further supply restrictions in addition to the introduction of a national hosepipe ban.
Irish Water has put supply restrictions in place in a number of towns, with some 8,000 consumers in Athlone, Co Westmeath, on reduced pressure overnight. A similar situation is affecting Portlaoise, with 5,000 people experiencing reduced pressure.
There are also concerns about the supply in Galway city and coastal areas after thousands flocked to the seaside over the weekend.
Following the initial introduction of the hosepipe ban in the greater Dublin Region, daily demand for water dropped from a high of 609 million litres to 572 million litres.
However, Irish Water says the levels of water usage nationally are still “unsustainable” even in the short term. Average usage nationally has been 1,900 million litres a day over the last two weeks, up from 1,650 million litres.
The utility firm warned that unless demand can be “reduced significantly”, the State’s water network will be at risk of major restrictions or outages “until the end of the year”.
The hosepipe ban is in place until the end of the month, at which point Irish Water will review if it needs to be extended.
Met Éireann has said soil moisture levels are so low that a week of sustained rainfall would be necessary before lakes and rivers start to recover from the drought. The latest forecast is for “scattered showers” from Wednesday onwards, but temperatures will remain in the low 20s over the weekend.
The State’s high dependency on ground water makes the network particularly vulnerable to drought, Irish Water says.
Irish Water said at the weekend that the possibility of no rain falling in the near future could lead to further restrictions, such as night-time pressure reductions being extended to the commercial sector.
If these measures prove insufficient, Irish Water would have to consider wider reductions in water pressure, and a ban on all non-essential usage, including window washing and watering sports pitches.
Irish Water’s helpline had received fewer than 40 reports of people breaking the domestic hosepipe ban last Thursday, the evening before the measures was extended nationwide.
Defying the ban can attract a fine of up to €125, but the majority of calls have been from people seeking clarification or advice on restrictions and outages, Irish Water said.
In Northern Ireland the authorities have “strongly advised” the public to adhere to the ban “as ignoring it will only cause further strain on resources and could lead to interruptions to supply” .
Northern Ireland Water chief executive Sara Venning said “we have maximised our water production and need customers’ help to reduce demand.
“We are asking customers to take heed of the hose pipe ban and stop non-essential water use - using hoses and sprinklers is causing demand to exceed the capacity to supply.”