Hosepipe ban is extended to the entire country as farm use rises

Come on in, the waters freisian! Calves on John Tilsons farm at Gartnaskill, Cavan cool off as temperatures remain in the high 20s on Wednesday afternoon. Photo: Lorraine Teevan
Come on in, the waters freisian! Calves on John Tilsons farm at Gartnaskill, Cavan cool off as temperatures remain in the high 20s on Wednesday afternoon. Photo: Lorraine Teevan

Paul Melia

IRISH Water has announced a national hosepipe ban as demand for water exceeds available supply.

Some 1.9 billion litres of water is being consumed on a daily basis, with just 1.65 billion currently being produced by plants across the country, the utility has warned.

The enormous rise in consumption has prompted the introduction of a national water conservation order, or hosepipe ban, which extends the ban already in place across the Greater Dublin area to the rest of the country.

It will take effect from tomorrow, and remain in place until at least the end of the month.

Demand for water has been driven by both domestic and commercial consumption, and from the agriculture sector.

Around 90pc of water needed for agricultural purposes is from private wells or boreholes but these have dwindled after 30 days of little or no rain, forcing farmers to use the public supply.

Kate Gannon
Kate Gannon

A dairy cow can consume between 60 and 155 litres of water a day and a beef cow between 35 and 55 litres, which is adding to increased demand.

"We think it's a lot of demand from agriculture [sources] to avoid animal welfare issues, but there's domestic use also," a source said.

"We don't believe it's being used for irrigation because the costs would be too high. We have regional staff working with the Irish Farmers Association and Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association and making standpipes available, and tankers if needs be."

The hosepipe ban is having an impact in the capital, with consumption dropping by around 3pc on Tuesday compared with the same day last week.

However, it is still above normal consumption of 565 million litres for this time of year, with around 590 million litres used yesterday.

Restrictions will be imposed in Athlone, Co Westmeath, tonight, which could affect up to 8,000 customers on the east side of the town.

There are also restrictions in parts of Offaly, Louth, Longford, Laois, Galway, Donegal, Limerick, Kilkenny, Cork, Tipperary, Waterford, Kerry, Carlow and Clare.

Irish Water intends to appoint 'authorised officers' this week to impose the ban. They will be Irish Water staff working in the field, and if they receive reports of excessive water being used, they will call to people's homes and advise them to stop.

Only in cases where people continue to flout the hosepipe ban would it consider imposing an on-the-spot fine of €125, which is allowed by law.

The hosepipe ban also extends to commercial premises for non-commercial activities, such as watering a garden attached to a business premises.

However, a watering can may be used. Fewer than 20 reports about water "wasters" have been made to the utility.

The company is also concerned about soil moisture deficits, which average 60mm across the country. This means that at least 60mm of rain must fall before water begins to reach the rivers, lakes and aquifers which supply the "raw" drinking water, allowing them to replenish.

"The national picture is of growing concern. People are more aware and are conserving water in the Greater Dublin area, but the weather outlook means there are pressures nationally," said corporate affairs manager Kate Gannon (inset).

"We're tankering from areas not at risk to those at risk. Every source is precious to us."

Smaller sources may take "many months to recover", and it is hoped the national ban will help avoid having to abstract from these sources.

Meanwhile, a report from Engineers Ireland gives a 'C' grade to the water network, saying it is inadequately maintained, unable to meet peak demand and in need of sustained investment.

'The State of Ireland 2018 - A Review of Infrastructure in Ireland' report says a new supply for Dublin, coupled with investment in drinking water and wastewater treatment plants and a reduction in leakage rates, were required to bring the system into line with modern standards.

Irish Independent