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Thursday 25 April 2019

Two weeks' rain or water shut off



Niamh Horan and Maeve Sheehan

Householders should prepare for night-time water outages by the end of this month unless the country gets two weeks of consistent rain, a leading climate expert has warned.

As the drought crisis deepens, Irish Water confirmed this weekend that turning off the water for a short period at night could be "coming down the line".

However, Professor Peter Thorne, of Maynooth University, said that without rain, there could be "significant water outages" by late July or August and warned that the drought could also bring crop failures and rising food prices.

Irish Water's crisis management team, which has been meeting over the weekend, is to discuss further water conservation options tomorrow, including suspending household supplies overnight, according to sources.

The Government has also been told that water restrictions might be extended to commercial businesses which currently conserve water on a voluntary basis, according to informed sources. If necessary, the national hosepipe ban, which came into force last week, may also be extended beyond July 31.

Prof Thorne, who is the director of the Irish Climate Analysis and Research Unit, said the crisis could be more imminent than we think.

"Forget about this idea of crisis by September. It's going to be a lot sooner than that," he said.

"You are talking about mandatory outages, reduced pressure, which will have even greater impact on homes on the edges of towns and cities, and domestic properties will be hit first to save water supplies for hospitals and other crucial infrastructure. That's when it will move from being the Government's problem to become a personal crisis for a lot of people."

Prof Thorne said the country needed two to four weeks of consistent day-to-day rainfall if a water shortage crisis is to be avoided. Forecasts predict little if any rainfall in the next few days.

"If we don't get that [level of rainfall] we are going to face huge problems in terms of crop failure, rising costs of food which will need to be imported in from abroad and it is going to significantly impact our pockets," Prof Thorne said.

A spokesperson for Irish Water said cutting off the water supply to households for short periods at night-time was something that could be "coming down the line" but added that many factors would come into play.

"All we can say is we are reviewing the situation on a daily basis," the spokesperson said. "Over the early part of this week we will be looking at the impact of the hosepipe ban nationally."

She said that by saving water now, households would be protecting their supply over future months. "We are hammering home the message that we need to conserve water. The more everybody does now, the less restrictions will have to be implemented in the future," she said.

Irish Water is also asking people to think about their water usage, not only at home but in terms of using services that are heavy on water use, such as car washes and laundromats.

"If it is not necessary, avoid it," the spokesperson said. "Every drop counts."

The effects of the drought continue to cause disruption across the country, with wild fires burning in several places and water restrictions in place in 14 counties.

The Department of Agriculture has extended its Red Alert Warning for forest fires until Wednesday.

Met Eireann warned the dry, warm weather would continue until at least Thursday.

Sunday Independent

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