Race against time to restore water as jobs now at risk
ALMOST every county has now been hit by water rationing and cut-offs as the impact of the thaw and burst pipes takes its toll.
Householders were warned last night that it could be well into the New Year before supplies are fully restored.
Throughout the country, local authorities have urged homeowners and businesses to check unoccupied premises for leaks and to conserve water as supplies have plunged to an all-time low in some areas.
Hotels, restaurants and pubs have warned that their supply must be restored if they are to do business as the countdown is under way to New Year's Eve, one of their busiest and most profitable nights of the year.
There were warnings from the restaurant sector that jobs will be lost if restrictions on water supply are imposed in the 36-hour period over New Year.
Gerry Galvin, principal officer in the Department of Environment's water section, revealed that practically every county had been affected to some extent by shortages.
He said all crews had been mobilised and that supply would improve slowly in the coming days.
People have been urged to check for burst pipes in premises such as schools, businesses or holiday homes that have been unoccupied since the thaw.
Councils said pipes had shifted, cracked and burst due to the swift thaw. Temperatures soared from -15C on Christmas night to +10C within 36 hours.
Council repair crews and private contractors have been working round-the clock to deal with thousands of cases of cracked pipes.
The Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) said hundreds of its members nationwide were now desperately trying to recoup vital revenue lost over the four-week Arctic spell up until December 26.
RAI chief executive Adrian Cummins said it was a race against time for many operators in the €2bn-plus sector.
"December was pretty much a write-off for many operators -- some of our members are reporting trade down between 50pc and 60pc," he said.
Dublin City Council hopes to ease water restrictions for the New Year period. An announcement is expected today.
Kerry Co Council said 25 crews were scouting for leaks and it hoped to have a supply in place for New Year's Eve.
One of the worst-affected areas is Fingal in north Co Dublin. It suffered significant losses to its reservoir supply on St Stephen's Day.
"It was as if somebody pulled the plug underneath the reservoirs," said David O'Connor, Fingal's county manager.
However, he warned that the council was not yet in a position to reassure restaurants and pubs as to whether their supply would be restored in time for New Year's Eve.
Meanwhile 40,000 houses were without water in Northern Ireland last night. In many towns and cities, residents turned to emergency water tankers and bottled water.
Some families have not had fresh running water for eight days and officials predict it will take several days before normal service is resumed.
Reservoir levels have dropped dangerously low and there has also been substantial flooding. Some flood waters have also been contaminated by sewage, raising concerns about public health.