Monday 10 December 2018

Irish Water confirms it is considering 'all legal options' as it prepares to announce specific bans amid increased drought fears

Irish Water set to announce specific bans on water use

A woman jumps from a diving board into the sea on Salthill beach during sunny weather in Galway. Photo: REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
A woman jumps from a diving board into the sea on Salthill beach during sunny weather in Galway. Photo: REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

Rachel Farrell and Paul Melia

Irish Water has warned that it is "considering all available legal options" as a last resort to protect water supplies during the heatwave.

It is anticipated that householders face being banned from using hosepipes to water their gardens or wash their cars under draconian tough measures being considered to avoid a national water shortage.

Irish Water is working alongside local authorities to ensure as much water is conserved as possible during the hot weather this week and are encouraging the public to save water where possible.

"Irish Water will make and publicise a number of orders shortly which will designate activities which must be banned for a period while the supply remains critical," it said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

"Ultimately, the objective of water saving and responsible water use must rely primarily on public cooperation. However, these drought orders will provide certain powers of enforcement to be used where necessary in support of the urgent need to preserve valuable and increasingly scarce water resources to meet essential social and economic needs.

Water usage in the Greater Dublin Area saw a slight decrease overnight to 607 million litres from 615 million litres on Wednesday. Irish Water can produce 610 million litres daily, forcing the company to use back up supplies when the demand is increased. 

Two year old Eoghan O Leary from Artane, pictured as he plays in the shallow water at Burrow beach in Sutton. Picture Credit:Frank McGrath
22/6/18
Two year old Eoghan O Leary from Artane, pictured as he plays in the shallow water at Burrow beach in Sutton. Picture Credit:Frank McGrath 22/6/18

While the usage has decreased in the capital, Irish Water say the usage is still 5-6pc above normal usage.

it has lowered night-time water pressure levels in the Greater Dublin Area to the minimum level.

Pollaphuca reservoir on the Liffey is said to be drawn down at a rate that could leave water supplies at risk for later in the summer.

Waterford, Galway, Kerry, Westmeath and Offaly are currently experiencing water restrictions. 

The company said they are prepared to use "the powers available" to them to ban non-essential uses of water if the situation becomes critical.

The move could ban the use of a hosepipe to wash the car, water the garden or fill a paddling pool. It could also potentially have an impact on those watering parks or sports pitches, irrigating crops, or operating a car washing service. 

Irish Water’s Corporate Affairs Manager, Kate Gannon said that water restrictions may be unavoidable if water supply demands don't return to normal levels.

“We have a long way to go. If the drought is prolonged, water restrictions would become unavoidable if demand not drop towards normal levels," she said.

"Every effort someone makes in their home or business impacts their neighbour and community. Irish Water is working to support customers to conserve water in the first instance and we will take necessary legal measures available to us to ensure that we minimise risk of supply loss to businesses and communities."

Ms Gannon added that their priority is to "minimise the impact" the potential water shortage could have on homeowners and businesses.

“We are very grateful to the public and to businesses for all efforts to conserve water. We are very encouraged by the leadership shown by our large commercial users in their work to conserve water. Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann and Irish Rail have all committed to reducing the number of times they wash their fleets.

“Irish Water’s priority is to minimise the impact on homes and businesses, particularly during this period of holidays and high tourism.”

The company have mobilised tankers to fill reservoirs across the country in areas that are most at risk of water shortage. 

Irish Water are also closely monitoring the situation on the Aran Islands and are prepared to ship water to the islands if necessary. 

"We are in touch with the farming organisations and offering assistance where water shortage is leading to animal welfare concerns. In critical situations we will accommodate farmers who need to collect water by tanker where it can be made available to meet urgent needs."

Data from Irish Water shows that of the 900 supplies across the country, 100 supplies are at risk, serving almost 903,000 people – some 620,000 in the Greater Dublin Area.

There are 21 supplies serving 40,000 customers in Cork on the watchlist; 10 across Galway city and county serving almost 95,000, 12 in Limerick serving 16,000 and seven in Wicklow serving almost 5,000.

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