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Saturday 23 March 2019

How worst drought in a century led to water restrictions

Callum (12) and his brother Leighton (9) Dempsey from Arklow enjoy the surf in Brittas
Bay. Photo: Damien Eagers
Callum (12) and his brother Leighton (9) Dempsey from Arklow enjoy the surf in Brittas Bay. Photo: Damien Eagers
Allison Bray

Allison Bray

The summers of 1975 and 1976 were among the driest Ireland has seen in the past 150 years.

While all 21 Met Éireann weather stations are now experiencing "absolute drought" in which less than 0.2mm of rain falls over 15 consecutive days, large swathes of the country experienced the worst drought in more than a century in both 1975 and 1976, according to historical data from the forecaster.

"In large areas of the east, midlands and south, the April to August periods of 1975 and 1976 were among the half-dozen driest such periods in the last 150 years," the report states. "This deficit of rainfall had serious consequences both for the growth of agricultural crops and for the supply of water for industrial and domestic use."

Phoenix Park recorded the fourth driest summer since the weather station opened in 1837 with just 176.8mm of rain falling between April and August.

But it wasn't the worst drought ever recorded in the capital. In 1887 just 125.2mm of rain fell in the park over the same period.

And as the current drought has led to the implementation of a water conservation order, water restrictions were also imposed more than 40 years ago.

"The lack of rainfall during the summers of 1975 and 1976 led to a very heavy demand for water," the report states.

"The situation was worse in 1976 because the demands of the previous summer had reduced the water storage in reservoirs and aquifers below the normal levels and the winter rainfall of 1975/76 was inadequate to restore them sufficiently to meet the 1976 demand. Restrictions on the use of water were introduced in both summers."

Meanwhile, a preliminary report on the recent spate of warm weather from the end of May to July 10 reveals that official heatwaves - in which temperatures exceed 25C for more than five days - were recorded at 15 weather stations across Ireland, mainly in the east, midlands, the west and the south.

The Oak Park station in Co Carlow experienced the longest heatwave so far this summer, running 11 consecutive days from June 24 to July 4.

And temperatures at Shannon Airport broke the previous record for the hottest day when it hit 32C on June 28.

Irish Independent

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