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Families left without water as thaw wreaks havoc with supply

After the snow comes the drought: thousands of families have been without water since Christmas Day as the big thaw wreaks havoc on the country's water system.

As temperatures rose yesterday, local authorities warned that cracked mains were rapidly emptying reservoirs.

And the bad news is that the number of burst pipes is likely to increase in the coming days as the thaw causes the ground to move -- increasing the risk of older pipes rupturing.

Local authorities all over the country have been forced to introduce overnight shutdowns of supplies and pressure restrictions over the coming days.

As many as 20,000 people in Tralee, Co Kerry, were left without water yesterday when supplies were cut off from the Lisloose reservoir as stocks hit critically low levels.

Kerry County Council had restored water to thousands of homes by yesterday evening, but warned it would have to continue limiting supplies to allow water levels to rise.


In the capital, Dublin City Council said many households would suffer from restricted water supplies because of rapidly depleting supplies.

Residents in Carlow and Kilkenny have also been affected by water problems over the past three days as a result of frozen mains.

While supplies returned to some homes yesterday as the thaw set in, hundreds of residents are still without any water. Dublin City Council said it was mobilising the maximum number of crews to deal with burst pipes in the capital and appealed to homeowners and businesses to check for leaks within their properties.

A spokesman said the council had no option but to reintroduce a "very restrictive regime" that would see supplies limited in the capital between 6pm and 9am over the coming days.

Crews in Cork were working to repair burst and leaking water mains across the city, which have cut off supplies or reduced water pressure. Stand pipes are being put in place in a number of locations in order to assist householders with supply difficulties.

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Extensive water mains breaks across Limerick will also result in shortages over the coming days, in what authorities branded as "unprecedented" disruption to the system.

In Westmeath, supplies have been shut down in Kinnegad and Athlone because of burst water mains, while parts of Mullingar have also been hit with shortages.


Limerick County Council was working to set up alternative supplies for the worst affected areas in Abbeyfeale and Newcastle West.

Kilkenny, Clare and Sligo have also been badly hit by burst pipes and are experiencing a serious depletion in supply.

Further havoc is expected with water supplies and road conditions as the thaw continues over the coming days.

Meanwhile, there are moves at Oireachtas level to tighten building regulations to protect water-carrying pipes against bitter cold. There are currently no laws specifying how far below ground pipes should be when supplies are installed.

Temperatures rose to as high as 11C in some parts of the country yesterday. But packed snow and ice remains a problem on many primary and secondary routes and gardai are advising motorists not to become complacent while driving over the coming days.

Drier weather is expected to follow tomorrow and Thursday. While temperatures will drop back a little, forecasters say they will still be in the normal range for the time of year.

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