Extra handwashing prompts Irish Water to appeal for conservation

Utility says HSE advice must be heeded, so people should reduce use of powerwashers

The increase in handwashing and stay-at-home activity has led to a rise of 20 per cent in domestic usage.  Photograph: iStock

The increase in handwashing and stay-at-home activity has led to a rise of 20 per cent in domestic usage. Photograph: iStock

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Adults staying home and repeatedly washing their hands during the coronavirus crisis are using an extra 24 litres of water a day, on average, prompting Irish Water to urge households to conserve water elsewhere.

While the utility says conditions are a long way from the drought of 2018, the increase in handwashing and stay-at-home activity has led to an increase of 20 per cent in domestic usage.

This has prompted Irish Water to suggest a number of “prudent” conservation measures, such as handwashing dishes in preference to powerwashing where possible.

New domestic metering data has revealed the increase is in line with data from UK water utilities which have reported increases of up to 27 litres per person a day.

Fortunately, non-domestic water usage has decreased with offices, construction sites, schools, colleges, leisure centres, hotels, bars and restaurants temporarily closed. The reduction in commercial demand has helped to offset some of the domestic increase – so far.

However, as domestic demand represents two-thirds of water consumption, the water supply is under pressure.

In addition, when Government restrictions are lifted, many commercial premises will need to use extra water to clean and flush their plumbing systems and storage tanks or to complete deep cleans, while water usage in homes will continue to remain higher than normal.

Irish Water’s spokeswoman, Siobhán Waters, said water treatment plants were already working to their maximum capacity, and while there was still enough water reaching them from the reservoirs, the utility was keeping a keen eye on the long-range weather forecast.

Conservation tips

Ms Waters appealed to the public to prioritise handwashing over powerwashing and conserve water where possible “so that together we can meet the increased demands on our network when restrictions are relaxed for businesses”.

Measures that the public can take include:

Stopping the use of powerwashers at home

Using a watering can rather than a hose in the garden

Taking showers over baths

Fixing any dripping taps where it is possible to do so.

Speaking about the need to conserve water, Irish Water’s managing director, Niall Gleeson, said it was “really important” that everyone followed the HSE guidance on handwashing. “However,” he said, “ there are some ways to conserve water that will not impact on hygiene.

“In Irish Water, we are continually looking at what we call the supply/ demand balance. This means that we need to ensure that we can supply more treated drinking water than is required for use. We can manage this by conserving water; losing less by repairing leaks; and supplying smarter by ensuring that all of our plants are working optimally. It is essential that we act now to protect our supply and safeguard our water for essential usage,” he said.

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