Final cost for small firms will run into millions
THE economic cost of the water crisis will run into millions of euro, business groups warned yesterday.
While Dublin restaurants and pubs got a last-minute reprieve when restrictions on supply were lifted for the New Year period, water availability in the city is not expected to return to normal levels until at least January 10.
Water services around the country are expected to be restored over the next 48 hours except for parts of counties Mayo and Galway.
But the cost of burst pipes, flooding and closed businesses is adding up every day.
Jim Curran, head of research at small business group ISME, said: "How much it will cost is hard to estimate but you are talking about millions -- it really depends on how long it lasts.
"This includes job losses, flood damage, higher insurance costs and lost business. Job losses are inevitable if businesses can't open."
He added that businesses should be entitled to tax rebates because they pay water rates.
Thousands of pubs and restaurants in Dublin will have full water services restored from 2pm today to 4pm tomorrow to cover the New Year period -- one of the busiest in their work calendar.
But they are already suffering from lost business because of the Arctic weather experienced earlier this month.
"Some of our members have reported a 50pc to 60pc drop in trade this month with the weather a massive contributor," said Adrian Cummins, chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland.
Water consumption continues to exceed supply in most of the country and county council workers are still fixing and replacing thousands of cracked pipes.
Opposition parties highlighted that many water pipes into new housing estates had frozen solid during the cold spell.
"Some water systems were not buried deep enough to protect against icy conditions," said Cork city councillor Ted Tynan.
Environment Minister John Gormley defended the government's role in the crisis yesterday, adding that it followed a time of "unprecedented weather" when temperatures soared from -15C on Christmas night to 10C within hours.
Mr Gormley also denied accusations from opposition parties that he had been "missing in action" during the crisis.
"This was an operational matter and the operational matters are dealt with primarily by the local authorities themselves," he said.
Mr Gormley appealed for householders to be patient.
"The work of the local authorities, who have been working 24-7 on this issue, is delivering results, and significant progress has been made, but it will take time for full water services to return to normal."
Funding would be made available to city and county councils to speed up the restoration of services, the minister said.
"We spent €500m this year and a further €320m will be available next year for mains rehabilitation alone," he added.
While water restrictions are being lifted around the country, households are being urged to conserve water.