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Thursday 23 January 2020

Q&A: Water restrictions - what you should know

Q WHY are restrictions in place?

Supplies from one of the country's biggest water treatment plants at Ballymore Eustace have been severely reduced since the weekend by about 70 million litres a day, or 20pc.

The reason is because the properties of the water coming from the lake have changed. Chemicals, known as polyelectrolytes, are added to the water which attract minuscule particles together, which form a scum, or cloud.

The water passes through this cloud, making it safe to drink.

But the water is behaving differently, and the cloud is not being formed, meaning the production cycle slows down.

That means less clean water is being produced, which then results in restrictions.

Q WHEN did the problem emerge?

It arose about 10 days ago, but the council quickly corrected it and no further action was required. However, it re-emerged over the weekend, prompting further action.

Q WHAT is the council doing?

It's experimenting by using different chemicals to treat the water. A similar problem arose in Galway a couple of years ago, and Dublin city engineers are in contact with their Galway counterparts. A similar problem also arose in Ballymore Eustace about 20 years ago.

Q WHAT caused it?

We don't know. Vegetation in the water can alter the PH, making it more acidic or alkaline, resulting in changes being needed to the chemical mix. The source of the Ballymore issue is unknown.

Q WHY is there so many problems with our water supply?

This has nothing to do with Victorian pipes, or faulty plants. This is a chemistry issue. However, restrictions are in place in up to 30 supplies at a given time, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, because they need upgrades. At least €600m a year is needed for at least the next decade to upgrade our system.

Q WHAT if I was paying water charges and couldn't drink the water – what would my rights be?

We don't know. The new water regulator has yet to set out how customers will be treated in the event of a loss of supply. We'll know more next year.

Q SO what should I do?

Conserve water where possible. Dublin Fire Brigade has also warned people not to engage in risky behaviour tonight, Halloween, adding that all bonfires are illegal. However, contingency plans are in place to secure a supply if needed, and that restrictions would not affect its ability to fight fires.

Irish Independent

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