Farmers fear for welfare of cows during heatwave as Irish water says supplies on 'knife edge'

ICMSA demand “early and frequent” communications from relevant bodies on possibilities of water shortages

The average dairy cow drinks 25 gallons of water daily
The average dairy cow drinks 25 gallons of water daily
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Temperatures topped 30C in parts of the country yesterday - and all signs are that the heatwave will not be abating.

In fact, the mercury is set to rise even higher today and tomorrow, building on the 31C high recorded yesterday at Shannon Airport.

"The next two days, it is going to be as warm, if not warmer," Met Éireann told the Irish Independent.

While breezes were keeping the east coast of the country relatively cooler, it reached 27.9C in the Phoenix Park in the capital.

Forecasts for today suggest highs of 30C, while tomorrow it could reach 32C in places, close to the hottest temperatures on record for the country. In 1887, temperatures reached 33.3C in Kilkenny.

Irish Water yesterday urged people to conserve supplies and said supplies were on a knife edge.

There was particular concern in Co Longford, where water restrictions were put in place in some areas.

Bulk water containers were deployed to Granard Kill cemetery, where there were queues during the evening.

The amount of water in storage to serve the Greater Dublin Area is 20pc below target.

Some 160 days of water is available for extraction from the Poulaphouca Reservoir in Co Wicklow. There should be 200 days available at this time of year.

While demand has stabilised in the Greater Dublin Area, it is still "critically high" and putting enormous pressure on the system. The utility's drought management team is meeting daily, and is monitoring water supplies and demand around the country. It said in many of its schemes, supply and demand was already under pressure.

The Chairperson of ICMSA’s Farm & Rural Affairs Committee, Denis Drennan, said it is hugely important that Irish Water and other responsible bodies to communicate early and frequently with people in the event of there being water shortages or any limitation of supplies. 

Mr Drennan said dairy farmers were particularly exposed and had to be mindful always that ensuring adequate water supplies for their cows was not a commercial consideration but actually is a key animal welfare issue.

The ICMSA Chairperson said that the basic minimum need for a dairy cow is 120 litres per animal per day and that has to be available or the animals become distressed.

He said that farmers took incredibly seriously their legal and practical obligations to look after their animals and anxiety was growing within the sector as reports circulated about cases where farmers have been told that there may be issues with water supply. 

ICMSA was aware of one farmer in Kilkenny who was paying in excess of €4000 per annum in water charges who had been told that there may be issues with his water supply.

Mr Drennan said that obviously dairy herds could not be prioritised over people, but the farm organisation did feel it was incumbent upon those bodies levying often very substantial charges for supplying water to make available feasible ‘back-up’ water supply facilities and explain clearly and frequently what the situation was.

He concluded on a more general point by noting that farmers - like many other people – will be astonished that after eight months of continuous rain and barely six weeks of dry weather, that communities were being told that there’s a water shortage.

Mr Drennan said the situation did not speak well for our water reservoir infrastructure or water management systems.

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