More cuts in supply due as councils tackle leaks


WATER CUTS and severe restrictions to supply are expected to affect homes and businesses across the country into the new year as local authorities struggle to fix leaking and broken pipes.

Water tankers have been deployed to many areas which have been without water supplies for several days since the widespread thaw began.

While freezing conditions cause water pipes in buildings to burst, the damage to water mains is caused by the thaw. Frozen ground can move when it thaws, bringing an increased risk of pipes breaking.

Dublin City Council, which has a high proportion of older and more fragile mains pipes, had to extend its overnight restrictions to 18 hours a day, from 6pm to noon, in an attempt to restore capacity at city reservoirs after demand for water yesterday reached its second highest ever level.

Almost 625 million litres of water were used or lost through leaks in Dublin yesterday, 70 million litres more than could be produced by the water treatment plants. The biggest draw on the system ever experienced in Dublin was on January 11th last, when demand hit 634 million litres.

Water restrictions had to remain until demand was brought under control, said Brian Smyth, a senior engineer with the city council. “The restrictions will only lessen when we find and fix the leaks. I can’t see an end to the restrictions at the moment.”

While the loss of water in the system was attributed almost entirely to leaks and not wastage by consumers, better water management would shorten the period for which restrictions need to be in place, Mr Smyth said. “If everyone flushed the toilet one time less a day it would save between 10 and 11 million litres of water a day.”

The water reservoirs in the greater Dublin region cater for one-third of the population of the State. Up to 1.4 million people in Kildare, Wicklow and Dublin face cuts or restrictions to supply until capacity is restored.

Water tankers are being deployed to the worst-affected areas and a converted fire engine is filling tanks at hostels, nursing homes and hospitals in Dublin.

Dublin City Council has brought in extra phone-line staff. Due to the volume of calls, not all are answered, however.

Local authorities in other affected areas across the State are posting details of water cuts, burst mains and locations of tankers or opened hydrant standpipes on their websites.

Cork City Council is continuing overnight restrictions in areas worst affected by leaks. Cork County Council said it has also had to cut supplies to large parts of the county, but emergency crews were working to fix bursts.

Parts of Limerick have been without water for several days and the county council said restrictions would have to continue until the reservoirs recovered. However, it was working to bring alternative supplies to the worst-affected areas.

Westmeath, Kerry, Sligo, Clare, Limerick, Laois, Leitrim, Kilkenny and Offaly have also been affected by cuts. Householders collecting water from standpipes or tankers are advised to boil the water.

The Department of the Environment has asked owners of businesses closed over Christmas to check their premises for leaks.

Despite the water restrictions, the Christmas racing festival got under way at Leopardstown yesterday and is due to continue today and tomorrow.