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Wednesday 30 July 2014

Terry Prone: Stop wasting water this summer before the taps run dry

Published 17/07/2013|10:43

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Children having Fun at the Beach

The current blast of sunshine is like going to Spain for free. Every beach has its own traffic jam as kids rediscover the simple joys of paddling, swimming and building sandcastles.

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In future years, the summer of 2013 will be looked back on as a glorious time.

It has to be said, though, that one group aren't happy at all. They're the local authority engineers responsible for water. The ones who make sure that when each of us turns on the tap, out flows lovely clean water, safe to drink and to shower in.

Right now, they're getting worried, because dry sunny days mean the waterline in reservoirs gets lower and lower, as has been happening over the past two weeks.

The problem isn't just the lack of rainwater to replenish the reservoirs. Or the evaporation from the expansive surfaces of those reservoirs. The problem is that Irish people have no respect for water.

Sure doesn't it fall out of the sky in bucketfuls all the time? In recent years, haven't we even had floods in winter?

Climate

Because we've grown used to a damp climate, and because water has always flowed freely -- in every sense -- from our taps, we take water for granted.

But when summer comes, almost everything we decide to do requires extra water. Like a paddling pool for the children in the back garden. Like taking down curtains and giving them a good wash and rinse before putting them out on the line to take advantage of the sunshine for drying them.

Like washing the car or watering your thirsty plants They all require water, over and above the normal need.

None of them are outrageous things to be doing on hot days. If, for example, you try weeding your garden when the soil is totally dry, it's roughly as easy as pulling a thread out of a rock.

None of them are nasty anti-social summer activities; nothing is quite as much fun for a bunch of ten-year-olds as a hosepipe fight.

But enough, the engineers would say, is enough. Now is the time to turn off the hosepipe and let the car stay dirty for another week or so. Because our water supply is coming under severe pressure from this wonderful weather and the activities it drives us to do.

In some parts of Dublin, water has already been restricted, although that's for maintenance work.

Habit

Those engineers again -- trying to keep a system functioning despite the fact that the system was laid down in Victorian times and has more leaks than the average sieve.

The old slogan, Save Water - Bath With A Friend pointed out that good use of the water we have can be fun. It's just that we've got out of the habit.

When we brush our teeth in the morning, we leave the tap on, pouring expensively treated water straight down the plug-hole as if there was an endless supply of it, when there isn't.

This is the summer when adults need to give good example to their offspring by turning off the tap once the toothbrush is good and wet and turning it back on only when rinsing.

Kids might also be introduced to the Navy Shower, developed by the British Navy, where you turn on the shower, soak yourself, turn it off while you lather up, and turn it on again only when it's time to rinse off.

Countless litres can be saved that way and in warm weather, it doesn't cause a shiver.

Sticking a plastic bucket into the shower to catch otherwise wasted water means you can give your plants a drink without feeling guilty about it.

Water charges are going to change the way we use this precious resource, but it wouldn't do us any harm to start conserving it before those water charges kick in.

Starting now.

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