HOUSEHOLDERS are facing the nightmare prospect of water being cut off as supplies are running low.
The Government threatened "draconian measures" yesterday to conserve water -- such as cutting off the supply to homes -- after weather resulted in chronic shortages around the country.
A number of local authorities have already either cut supply altogether, leaving households reliant on tankers, or "throttled" supplies -- reducing the pressure of water going into homes.
A significant part of the surge in demand has been caused by people who are leaving taps running in a bid to prevent pipes from freezing.
However, Environment Minister John Gormley urged householders to use water sparingly, and said leaving taps running was ineffective.
"There is no need at all to engage in this behaviour. The message is please conserve water and don't let taps run."
If people heeded this advice, Mr Gormley added, authorities would not be forced to take more "draconian measures" such as cutting off supply.
Mr Gormley said that demand in Dublin has increased by 25pc. Over the weekend, a new record of 624 million litres of water was used in the capital.
"We also have difficulties in Cork, Leitrim, north Tipperary and Sligo," he added.
Water is also being lost due to broken water mains. Dublin city engineer Michael Phillips said it could take up to six months to find and repair all of the leaks.
"Dublin City Council is asking everyone to conserve water. With a thaw due to take place this week, there will be a certain amount of movement in the earth which will lead to burst water pipes," he added.
"We foresee that it will take approximately five months to fully rehabilitate burst or broken water mains," a statement from Dublin City Council said.
Water pressure has been reduced during off-peak night-time hours by the council but there remains the possibility that supply could be cut off for periods, said a spokesman.
Local authorities in Carlow and Kilkenny organised deliveries to cut-off residents throughout yesterday. Residents in the Gorey area had their water stopped at 10pm last night until 8am this morning.
South Tipperary County Council warned that parts of the county may experience water shortages if current consumption levels continue.
Water shortages due to frozen pipes have also hit householders and shops in north and west Cork. In Mitchelstown, a number of businesses could not open due to the lack of water.
Donal Harrison, senior engineer with Sligo County Council, said water problems had spread countywide and although crews were working to rectify the problems, disruptions could be expected in the coming days.
In Mitchelstown, Cork, a number of businesses could not open due to lack of water. And in Bantry, there was a dramatic reduction in water supplies in a key local reservoir.
In Donegal, the effects were felt countywide. Burst pipes and water damage were reported at vacant buildings around the county.