SOME of the €300m earmarked to upgrade the public water network could now be spent on repairing burst pipes, it emerged yesterday, as water restrictions continued to ease yesterday.
Dublin City Council confirmed that supply outstripped demand in recent days -- including during New Year's Eve -- but restrictions in the capital will ease significantly from today.
However, night-time restrictions between 7pm and 7am are likely to continue until the middle of the month.
A significant improvement was also reported yesterday in other badly affected counties, including Mayo and Leitrim, although there are pockets of homes that remain without supply, including hundreds of houses in Clare and Galway.
However, the decision to supply homes and businesses with water throughout New Year's Eve did not mean a major fall-off in the small surplus in Dublin city.
"We were slightly apprehensive that by putting the system back in operation we would use our surplus but we were delighted that it didn't happen that way," a Dublin City Council spokesman said.
"It was about evens in terms of supply and demand for the day, and yesterday there was a gain in the amount of water going into storage at Stillorgan reservoir.
"Ideally, what we need is about two days' supply in the reservoir. It now stands at just over one day's supply but it's heading in the right direction.
"But it's still going to take another 10 to 12 days to get back to a situation where we are comfortable."
Although Dublin City Council was putting a positive spin on restrictions, there are still some estates without water, including Delvin Banks in the Naul.
"We haven't had water since St Stephen's Day," Ciaran Brady told the Irish Independent after he and his daughter Mia (3) filled containers from a tanker at a nearby shopping centre.
"We have a 10-week-old child so it's not easy. We're coping but it's a real nuisance and has been going on for a while now. We got an hour yesterday to put on a wash but then it was gone again.
"With all the talk of water being available, we're obviously the exception."
Local authorities have called on people to check office blocks and schools for pipe breakages and leaks before they reopen tomorrow.
But the Department of the Environment has denied reports that hundreds of millions of euro from the Water Services Investment Programme will be diverted to repair burst pipes.
"That money has been earmarked for water conservation measures and that is what it will be spent on," a spokesman said, but added: "Part of this will involve the upgrade of 600km of new pipes. But the water conservation measures include the fixing of leaking pipes and obviously that will include burst pipes too."
A review of local authorities' handling of the recent cold snap is to take place later this week, but the department has again ruled out compensation for businesses affected by water shortages or poorly-gritted roads.
The County and City Managers Association (CCMA) said yesterday that almost 20,000 local authority workers were out over the Christmas period distributing 80,000 tonnes of salt.
"This was a major operation for local authorities because the weather conditions were so severe," CCMA chairman Eddie Breen said yesterday.
"We are very pleased with the response and with the way our systems worked to keep the main roads open and to assist the public."
Temperatures are set to dip to minus five in some areas tonight, and will continue to hover around freezing point at night for much of the week.